You are on page 1of 172

South Dakota State University

Open PRAIRIE: Open Public Research Access Institutional

Repository and Information Exchange
Theses and Dissertations


The Gendered World of Disney: A Content

Analysis of Gender Themes in Full-length
Animated Disney feature Films
Beth A. Wiersma
South Dakota State University

Follow this and additional works at:

Part of the American Film Studies Commons, American Popular Culture Commons, Film and
Media Studies Commons, Sociology Commons, and the Women's Studies Commons

Recommended Citation
Wiersma, Beth A., "The Gendered World of Disney: A Content Analysis of Gender Themes in Full-length Animated Disney feature
Films" (2000). Theses and Dissertations. 1906.

This Dissertation - Open Access is brought to you for free and open access by Open PRAIRIE: Open Public Research Access Institutional Repository
and Information Exchange. It has been accepted for inclusion in Theses and Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Open PRAIRIE: Open
Public Research Access Institutional Repository and Information Exchange. For more information, please contact
The Gendered World of Disney:

A Content Analysis of Gender Themes in Full-Length

Animated Disney Feature Films

Beth A. Wiersma

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillmeni

of the requirements for the degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major in Sociology

South Dakota State University


The Gendered World of Disney:

A Content Analysis of Gender Themes in Full-Length

Animated Disney Feature Films

This dissertation is approved as a creditable and independent investigation by a

candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree and is. acceptable for meeting the

dissertation requirements for this degree. Acceptance of this dissertation does

not imply that the conclusions reached by the candidate are necessarily the

conclusions of the major department.

Or.' Donna l-fess

Dissertation Advisor Date

Dr. Donna Hess

Head, Sociology Date


The Gendered World of Disney:

A Content Analysis of Gender Themes in Full-Length

Animated Disney Feature Films

Beth A. Wiersma

December 1, 2000

Research has focused on the gender messages portrayed in television

programs, cartoons, advertisements, literature, picture books, and fairy tales.

One venue that has not received as much attention in the research is the Disney 1

full-length animated feature films. This is a qualitative study of the gender

themes and portrayal of gender roles in full-length animated feature films by The

Walt Disney Company. The findings in this research indicate there has been little

change in the stereotyped portrayals of Disney characters from the release of the

first full-length animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937

to the release of Toy Story in 1995. Male characters continue to outnumber

female characters. Women are portrayed as performing more in-home labor,

less out-of-home employment, and hold little familial or societal power. Small

changes are noted in the presentation of character traits for both male and

female characters. Perspectives from the sociology of knowledge and the social

Disney and The Walt (?isney Company are registered trademarks of The Walt Disney CorJ!pany.

construction of reality serve as a theoretical framework to explain Disney's

continual stereotyped portrayal of gender roles. Within this framework this study

demonstrates how the abstract processes of objectification and legitimation occur

in the production of gender typifications in the Disney films. The study concludes

with a discussion of emerging gender themes and suggestions for future

research concerning Disney films.




Acceptance Page .................................................................................................. ii

Abstract................................................................................................................ iii

List of Tables...........................-............................................................................. ix

Chapter 1 Introduction ....................................................................................... 1

The Problem ............................................................................................... 2

Purpose of Study............................................................................. � .......... 3

Significance of Study.................................................................................. 4

Looking Forward ........................................................................................ 4

Chapter 2 Literature Review...............................................................................

· 6

Introduction ................................................................................................ 6

Socialization and Gender Roles ................................................................. 6

Gender and the Media................................................................................ 7

Gender Typifications .................................................................................. 9

Summary .................................................................................................. 13

Chapter 3 Theoretical Perspective .................................................................. 14

Introductions........................................................... � .................................. 14

· The Social Construction Framework ........................................................ 16

Phases in the Social Construction of Reality............................................ 17

Phase I: Externalization ..........................'....................................... 18

Phase II: Objectivation................................................................... 19


Phase Ill: Internalization ................................................................ 23

Phase IV: Renovation.................................................................... 27

The Social Construction of Reality and Disney Films ............................... 30

Summary .................................................................................................. 33

Chapter 4 Methodology .................................................................................... 35

Introduction .................................. �..........................................·................. 35

Population and Sample ............................................................................ 36

Design of this Study ................................................................................. 38

Data Collection and Categorization .......................................................... 39

Coding the Characters ............................................................................. 41

Character Traits and Indicators ................................................................ 43

Data Reduction and Analysis ................................................................... 45

Reliability of the Coding Frame ................................................................ 46

Chapter 5 Findings ........................................................................................... 47

Male to Female Ratios ............................................................................. 47

Categories of Female Characters ............................................................ 49

Physical Appearance of Female Characters ............................................ 5 1

Categories of male Characters and Physical Appea rance ....................... 54

In-Home Labor ......................................................................................... 58

Out-of-Home Employment. ....................................................................... 61

Societal Power ...........................·........ �...................................................... 64

Familial Power.................................
· �........................................................ 67

Emerging Themes .................................................................................... 69

Terms Used to Refer to Women .................................................... 69

Descriptors of Female Characters ................................................. 70

Physical Appearance Descriptors: Female Characters ................. 71

Physical Appearance Descriptors: Male Characters...................... 74

Rescues: Female Characters ........................................................ 76

Rescues: Male Characters ............................................................ 79

Emotional Characters............................................................................... 8 1

Crying: Female Characters............................................................ 8 1

Crying: Male Characters ................................................................ 84

Female Dependency on Males................................................................. 85

Bravery and Strength: Male Characters ................................................... 87

Bravery and Strength: Female Characters .............................. ................. 89

Flirting ...................................................................................................... 9 1

Heterosexual Couplings ................................................................. .......... 96

Human Couples............ ....................................................... .......... 96

Animal Couples ............ ........................................ ....................... 10 1

Changes in the Portrayal of Gender Since Walt Disney's Death ............ 104

Chapter 6 Discussion and Conclusions ....................................................... 106

Male to Female Ratios ............. ................................ .............................. 106

Categories of Female Characters·······�·················································· 108

Categories of Male Characters........ � ....................... ............................... 109


In-Home Labor ................................................................... , ................... 11 1

Out-of-Home Employment. .............................................................. '. ...... 1 13

Societal Power ....................................................................................... 115

Familial Power........................................................................................ 115

Villain Character Traits ........................................................................... 1 17

Male Hero and Female Heroine Character Traits.................... ·............... 118

Emotional versus Unemotional. ................................................... 119

Passive versus Aggressive.......................................................... 120

Dependent versus Independent .................................................. 12 1

Romantic versus Unromantic ...................................................... 123

Revisiting the Social Construction of Gender Roles............................... 128

Conclusions............................................................................................ 13 1

Limitations .................. : ........................................................................... 136

Future Research .................................................................................... 138

Append ices...................................................................................................... 143

Appendix A Coding Frame .................................................................... 144

Appendix B Characters Coded as Male and Female ............................ 145

Appendix C Inter-Rater Coding Frame: Character Traits ...................... 151

Appendix D Inter-Rater Coding Frame: Physical Appearance .............. 153

References ...................................................................................................... 155


List of Tables

Table Page
1. Films Included in the Sample with Release Date
and Industry Ranking ............................................................................... 37

2. Number of Male and Female Characters ................................................. 48

3. Categories of Female Characters ............................................................ 49

4. Categories of Male Characters................................................................. 55

5. Characters by Gender Performing In-Home Labor................................... 59

6. In-Home Labor ................................................................................ : ........ 60

7. Out-of-Home Employment.. ...................................................................... 62

8. Characters Holding Societal Power.......................................................... 64

9. Terms Referring to Female Characters .................................................... 70

10. Descriptors Used to Describe Women ..................................................... 7 1

1 1. Characters Who are Rescued .................................................................. 77

12. Emotional Characters: Crying .................................................................. 82

13. Heterosexual Couplings ........................................................................... 96

14. Number of Characters Portrayed in the

Themes Studied Before and After the
Death of Walt Disney ..................................................... ........................ 104


The name Disney 1 means many different things to many people. From the

time The Walt Disney Company, as it is known today, began in 1923 until present

day, Disney has permeated many areas of American culture and has expanded

beyond America's borders. Beginning with animated short subject films, Disney

has expanded its empire to include motion picture companies, television stations,

interactive computer software, a National Hockey League team, a baseball team,

stores, theme parks, hotels, Broadway shows, galleries, music soundtracks,

books, merchandise and home-videos. The company has also entered into

contracts with other major corporations such as Mattel a nd McDonald's to

produce and market Disney characters mainly tied to theatrical and home video

releases (Walt Disney Company 1996b).

The magnitude of The Walt Disney Company is difficult to imagine. Not

only is Disney "Hollywood's biggest single movie producer ... [it is also] ... the

strongest programming brand name in the world" (Maney 1995:163-164), but this
has not always been the case. When Michael D. Eisner
- -
-- .,, and Frank G. Wells took
over leadership of Disney in 1984 as Chairman/CEO and President/COO

respectively, they were looking for ways to raise profits. One way they are doif!g

this is by offerif1Q the Disney classics, the full-length a�imated feature films, for

1 Disney and the Walt Disney Company are registered

trademarks of The Walt Disney Company.
[ 111 2

sale at low prices. The idea was to make videos affordable for all households so

people would buy instead of rent movies (Luckett 1994).

The strategy worked. Disney realized profits of more than one hundred

million dollars in 1986 (Gomery 1994). Buena Vista Home Video (BVHV)

distributes Disney videos both nationally and internationally. BVHV North

America remains the industry's top-ranked home video company. lh sell-through

business alone, it is nearly twice the size of its nearest rival (Walt Disney

Company 1996a). In 1993 Aladdin became the number one selling home video

of all time only to be surpassed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1994

which was surpassed by The Lion King in 1995. The Lion King sold over 30

million units (Walt Disney Company 1995a and 1995b). These home videos also

faired well on the international market with Aladdin selling 15 million units, Snow

White and the Seven Dwarfs 16 million units and The Lion King 23 million units

(Walt Disney Company 1995a).

. I
The Problem

There are an estimated 101,041,000 households in the United States (U.S.

. '
Census 1999) and when one considers The Lion King sold over 30 million units,

over one-fourth of U.S. households own a copy. According to Landis (1993) the

. Disney animated features are re-released to theaters on a seven-year rotation to

attract a following in each new generation. As the vid�os are also re-released the

number of households owning copies of these videos is most likely higher than


previously indicated. Romer (1981) notes that preschoolers watch an average of

three to five hours of television each day, which results in passive learning. It is

likely that some of the hours spent watching television actually include time spent

watching home videos or rentals. "With corporations securely in control of TV ·

and other forms of information and entertainment production, these institutions

have gained unprecedented power to represent the world to both children and

adults" (Steinberg & Kincheloe 1997:15-16).

Research has been conducted for years on the gender messages ch�ldren

get from television programs, cartoons, advertisements, literature, picture books,

and fairy tales. But, little research has been done on what kind of gender

messages are presented to children in the Disney animated feature films. The

portrayal of gender roles in Disney animated feature films is the focus of this

study. The following question will serve as the research problem.

How are gender and gender roles presented in Disney full

length animated feature films?

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this research is three-fold: (a) to determine if the wonderful

world touted and portrayed by Disney is in fact rich in gender stereotypes-as are

other venues of media; (b) in keeping with the progress made by women in U.S.

society, this research will serve to inform whether cha�ges in the portrayal of

gender and gender roles have kept pace in the Disney films; and (c) to discover


emerging themes related to gender that may or may not have been addressed in

other venues portraying stereotyped gender roles.

Significance of Study

Disney films have been largely ignored in the research. This may be due

to the power Disney holds as a cultural icon. Disney is considered'the ideal of

wholesome family entertainment. By viewing Disney films with a critical

sociological imagination it may be possible to determine whether the films

produced by the Walt Disney Company are the utmost in family entertainment. It

is possible this research may break the magic Disney seems to cast upon the

consumers of their animated feature films.

It is expected that this study will empirically add to Berger and Luckmann's

theory of the social construction of reality. Within the framework of the social

construction of reality this study seeks to demonstrate how the abstract

processes of objectivation and legitimation occur in the production of gender

typifications in Disney films.

Looking Forward

This dissertation begins with a review of the literature specifically addressing

what has been found in other venues with regard to gender role portrayals in

media. Chapter three addresses the sociology of knowledge and a theoretical

framework of the social construction of reality. Chapter four explains the


qualitative methods employed in this research. The findings of these qualitative

methods are presented, analyzed and discussed in the remaining cha_pters.

More specifically noted is how the portrayal of male and female characters and

the gender roles they portray have or have not changed over the past six

decades. Areas for further research related to Disney films are also suggested.

Literature Review


This literature review examines the presentation of gender and gender

roles in the media. This review includes these presentations across all venues of

media including television, books, cartoons, commercials, music videos, motion

pictures, and commercials. The literature review covers a wide array of the

portrayal of gender and gender roles including the disparity between the number

of male and female characters, the presentation of stereotyped character traits,

the activities in which male and female characters engage, and the physical

appearance of characters. This review covers more than two decades of

literature, which allows for the determination of change in these portrayals.

Socialization and Gender Roles

Socialization is a process whereby people become functioning members of

society by learning the cultural values, beliefs, attitudes and norms of behavior

for that particular society (Durkin 1995; Kornblum and Julian 1998; Lindsey 1997;

Remafedi 1990; Romer 1981). Many theorists maintain that gender identity as

well as the prescriptions and proscriptions (what is acceptable and what is not) of

gender roles are acquired through the process of socialization (Durkin 1995;

Mackey and Hess 1982; Peirce 1989; Remafedi 1990).


The term "gender role" refers to "everything a person says and does to

indicate to others or to the self the degree in which one is male or female or

ambivalent" (Remafedi 1990:59). From birth, males and females are

differentiated by their sex (biological genitals). In American culture gender roles

are differentiated according to dress, physical activity and work (Lindsey 1997).

As children grow they learn there are certain behaviors expected of them based

on their sex. Children are socialized from birth into gender roles through various

agents such as family, school, church, peer groups and the mass media.

According to Steinberg and Kincheloe (1997:27) "the advent of electronic hyper­

reality has revolutionized the ways knowledge is produced in this culture and the

ways children come to learn about the world. " "TV programs usually have a set

of values and beliefs they present to children in an action-packed, highly stylized,

and repetitive fashion. These values almost always include adherence to

traditional sex roles" (Romer 1981:25). Television is not the only source in mass

media to portray traditional gender roles.

Gender and the Med i a

Numerous studies have been conducted on gender representation on

television and in books, advertisements, and cartoons. Gender stereotypes

present in early studies still exist today in children's television programming

(Busby 1974; Peirce 1989), cartoons (Mayes�and Valentine 1979; Thompson and

Zerbinos 1995), children's books (Peterson and Lach 1990; Williams et al. 1987),

television advertisements (Lovdal 1989), and prime-time television programming

(Signorielli 1989) and Disney videos (Hoerner 1996). In all venues examined,

males were found to outnumber females by a ratio of 2 to 1 to as much as 4 to 1

(Busby 1974; H oerner 1996; Levinson 1975; Mackey and Hess 1982; Remafedi

1990; Streicher 1974; Thompson and Zervinos 1995; Williams et al. 1987;

Zebrowitz-M cArthur and Resko 1975). I n the Media Report to Women (1997) it

was reported women account for 22% of characters in music videos, 37% in

motion pictures, 42% in TV commercials and 45% in television programs.

Peterson and Lach (1990) and Williams et al. (1987) found the disparity

between the number of males and females is narrowing, but is still not equal. In

a study of eleven Disney films Hoerner (1996) found the number of females

(n=28) were almost equal to the number of characters whose gender could not

be determined (n=29). Males accounted for 57% of the characters, females

21 %, and undifferentiated characters 22%. Kortenhaus and Demarest (1993)

and Levinson (1975) found that when the gender of animals can be determined

in children's literature, males again outnumber females. Males outnumber

females in the voice-overs on television commercials (Lovdal 1989; Streicher

1974), and female characters in television cartoons have fewer lines (Streicher


Gender Typifications

The way the mass media portrays the character traits of females and males

fall along stereotyped gender lines. Females are depicted with those traits

traditionally considered feminine he women and girls in children 's television ·

programs and cartoons were found to be affectionate, emotional, sensitive and

expressive of romantic interests (Busby 1974; Streicher 1974}) Signorielli (1997)

found women are shown whining and crying in movies and on television.

Females were shown as n urturing in prime-time television, picture books and

children's literature (Kortenhaus and Demarest 1993; S ignorielli 1989; W illiams et

al. 1987) a nd were depicted as passive in comic strips, cartoons, picture books

and children's television programming (Busby 1974; Levinson 1975; Mooney and

Brabant 1990; W illiams et al. 1987). Giroux (1997) found Disney female

characters to be subordinate to men and Romer (1981) notes that adult women

in television commercials were portrayed as childlike and unintelligent.

Males, on the other hand, are characterized with those personality traits

traditionally thought of as masculine. Kortenhaus and Demarest (1993),

Streicher (1974), and Williams et al. (1987) found males characterized as

independent. Males are also shown to have prestige and power (Signorielli

1989), to be assertive and athletic (Streicher 1974), to h ave authority and the

ability to solve problems (Kortenhaus and Demarest 1993), and to use physical

force and brawn (Signorelli 1997).


The activities in which males and females participate are stereotyped in

the various venues whether the characters are children or adults and whether

they are at home or on the job. Hillman (1976) found little change from the

1930s to the 1970s in children's literature and the portrayal of males and females

in the number of occupational roles. Males were depicted in a greater variety of

occupations when compared to females, and the ratio of five male occupations

per one female occupation changed only slightly over the years to a ratio of 4:1.

Lovdal (1989) found more variety of occupations for men in television

commercials while women were portrayed in stereotyped roles such as wife and

mother. In television commercials adult women were depicted as not concerned

with non-home related creativity and were only interested in home and family.

The women in these commercials were also depicted as unconcerned about

employment (Romer 1981). In children's television programs, Busby (1974)

found the occupations in which women were portrayed are those at the bottom of

the job hierarchy; wives took care of the home and child-care while men

performed maintenance chores and yard work.

This is consistent with the findings of Mackey and Hess (1982) and

Levinson (1975) which showed women are more often depicted in

socioemotional roles compared to males who are more often shown in task

oriented or instrumental roles. Socioemotional roles are those associated with

nurturing and meeting the needs of the family.. Th�se activities are more likely to

be thought of as taking place in the home whereas instrumental tasks such as


those that "deal with overt behavior manipulating the physical environment: e. g.,

building, fighting, plowing. . . [or] . . . clearing land" (Mackey and Hess 1982 :204) are

thought of as taking place outdoors. Mooney and Brabant (1 990) in their study of

comic strips found females less likely to interact with others outside the home

and that daughters are not pictured outdoors as much as sons. Females were

found in the home more often in television commercials (Zebrowitz�McArthur and

Resko 1 975) and picture books (Williams et al. 1 987).

The location in which men and women are pictured has an impact .on what

type of objects they are shown using or selling. In a study of what type of

artifacts are used by women and men in children's books, Crabb and Bielawsk i

(1 994) found women are mostly shown using artifacts related to home labor such

as those for cleaning, cooking, or family care while men use those related to

outdoor activities like transportation and construction. Females were found to

represent i n-home products in television commercials (Lovdal 1 989; Zebrowitz­

McArthur and Resko 1 975), and men were not depicted doing housework in

cartoons (Streicher 1 974).

Gender stereotypes are reinforced by the physical appearance of

characters in the media. This may be true for females more than for males

considering the attention focused on women to socialize them to the belief that

they must be thin and attractive to have worth. Among the most potent

messages from mass media are that "women (parti.cularly if young and

"attractive") are decorative sex objects, sexually available to men" (Lott


1997:287). Disney i s associated with family values. The fear of undermining this

view led to the insistence of Disney executives that Ariel the mermaid wear shells

for a bra instead of being nude above the waist (Wally 1996). Apparently

sexuality is not an issue for Disney, only nudity. I n the Media Report to Women

(1997) researchers found women's and g irls' appearance were commented on in

television programs and commercials and movies significantly more than for men

and boys.

Abel (1995:187) found that the MGM Studio presents its female cartoon

characters in heavily stereotyped ways. Abel identified three typifications of

women in these cartoons: "the domestic woman, either a housewife or a servant

. . . the sex symbol with a highly exaggerated hourglass figure; and the comic old

woman, an offshoot of the matron of the 1930s screwball comedy, sometimes

elegant, sometimes dowdy, but always laughable in her attempt to mimic the

sexual desirability of the young sex symbol." Trites (1991) reports that Disney

presents good as fair and uses dark to represent evil. They have recently

associated weight with evil in response to America's fascinati on with thinness.

Relationships also appear to be a focus of women in the media.

Signorielli (1997) reports that messages and stereotypes about the priority of

relationships in g irls' lives are spread across various media. In contrast, the

priority presented for males is a career. Abel (1995) also found that the MGM

Studio relies on the "normative heterosexual ideal" in cartoons. After hours of

observing children and adolescents, Barrie . Thorne (1994:170) found "active


efforts to get and keep a boyfriend lead many young women to lower their

ambitions, and the culture of romance perpetuates male privilege."


This review o f recent literature indicates the presentation of gender roles

has not changed much over the past two to three decades. This review indicates

stereotyped portrayals of male and female characters a re present across all

forms of media. The disparity between the number of male and female

characters found in the earlier literature stills exists as indicated by the recent

literature. The media continue to present males and females in traditional

masculine and feminine gender roles respectively, with females portrayed as

emotional, passive, subordinate, nurturing and romantic and males portrayed a s

independent and assertive, as having power and prestige, and a s exercising

physical force. This study seeks to determine if the presentation of gender and

gender roles in full length animated Disney films parallels the findings in other

forms of media and whether these presentations have changed over time.

H I T01 J M. [) :"' : G G S L : :. � A RY
SouH, D ) k o a State U n i'lc rs ity
rr., lr i n,, c C:(') • c;7()()7_1()0Q

Theoretical Perspective


The focus of this chapter is on how the media, and more specifically film

producers, construct traditional gender roles and stereotypes. The presentation

of these gender roles and stereotypes contribute to children's understanding of

gender roles. The social constructionist perspective will provide the framework of

this discussion.

The media present the typifications of what it means to be male or

female, masculine or feminine. A review of the literature indicated that more

males are presented in the media and more often. Males are also portrayed as

independent, assertive, athletic, physically forceful and possessing power,

prestige and authority. Females, on the other hand , are portrayed as emotional,

nurturing, sensitive, romantic, passive and submissive. Women are portrayed as

wives and mothers, caring for the children and doing housework. When women

are portrayed in occupations outside the home, they are in occupations with little

status or prestige, those at the lower end of the occupational hierarchy.

According to West and Zimmerman (1991:29) "gender differen ces, or the

sociocultural shaping of 'essential female ang male n atures' achieve the status of

objective facts. They are rendered normal,. natural features of persons and


provide the rationale for differing fates of women and men within the social


T he consumers of mass media see what the producers of that media

present as appropriate for gender roles. These constructions of reality take on

subjective meaning for individuals. Socially constructed reality may become a

self-fulfilling prophecy. Sociologist W . I . Thomas addressed this in his statement

"if people define situations as real. they are real in their consequences" (Thomas

and Thomas 1928: 572). This now famous statement known as the T

Theorem means that once people have ideas or beliefs of what it means to be

appropriately male or female, they will behave or engage in activities in

accordance with those beliefs. They have thus turned their subjective meanings

into objective reality.

As previously stated the traditional gender roles and stereotypes children

view in films contribute to their understanding of gender roles. According to

Romer (1981 :26) "since young children believe that television tells the truth, they

may think that 'the truth' involves extreme versions of sex roles." The

assumptio n is made here that if children believe televisi on tells the truth so too

does film o r more specifically, Disney films. The remainde r of this chapter will

outline the social constructionist perspective to explain h ow traditional gender

roles and stereotypes were constructed and continue to be reconstructed by the


The Social Construction Framework

The social constructionist approach has its roots in symbolic interaction

which focuses on "interactions among individuals in their specific social

situations" (Howard and Hollander 1997:39) and their social construction of

reality. The social world, as people know it is created and re-created by

individuals in interaction. Social constructionists propose that reality is socially

constructed. According to Kanagy and Kraybill (1999:18), construction refers to

"the way in which humans have created social worlds."

The social world consists of the culture of a society, i.e., the values, beliefs

and patterns of behavior that exist in that society. Berger and Luckmann

(1966:3) focus on the "processes by which any body of 1 knowledge' comes to be

socially accepted as ·reality'." For Berger and Luckmann (1966:5-6) the analysis

of the social construction of reality is the concern of the sociology of knowledge.

They borrow the root proposition of the sociology of knowledge from Marx noting


Man's consciousness is determined by his social being . . . What

concerned Marx was that human thought is founded in human activity
rtabor," in the widest sense of the word) and in the social relations
brought about by this activity. "Substructure" and "superstructure" are
best understood if one views them as, respectively, human activity and the
world produced by that activity.

The social constructionist approach is concerned with the process of how

reality is constructed. The focus is on the interplay of individual actors creating a

subjective meaning from the patterned interactions· or objective reality. It is this

combination that creates reality for individuals (Berger and Luckmann 1966;

Kanagy and Kraybill 1999). Hutchison and Charlesworth (1998:44) summarize

the central ideas of the social con structionist perspective as:

• Actors are free, active, and creative.

• Social reality is created when actors, in social interaction , develop a
common understanding of their world.
• Social interaction is g rounded in "linguistic con ventions, as well as
cultural and historical contexts" (Witkin and Gottschalk, 1988:213).
• People can modify meanings in the process of interaction.
• Society consists of social p·rocesses, not social structures.

Phases In the Social Construction of Reality

Berger and Luckmann (1966) present the social construction of reality as

a three-phase process, which includes extern alization, objectification and

internalization. Kan agy and Kraybill (1999) refer to the externalization phase as

the construction phase and have added a fourth phase they refer to as

renovation. These phases are viewed as dialectical meaning that there is a back

and forth relationship between products produced and those who produce them.

The dialectic process applies to actors and structures and past, present and

future circumstances. Berger and Luckmann (1966: 61) describe this dialectical

process of the social construction of reality as follows:

The paradox [is] that man is capable of producing a world that he then
experiences as something oth er than a human product .. . it is important to
emphasize that the relationship between man, the producer, and the
social world, his product, is and remain s a dialectical one. That is, man
(not, of course, in isolation but in his collectivities) and his social world
interact with each other. The product acts back upon the producer.
Externalization and objectivation ·are moments in a continuing dialectical
process ... only with the transmission of the social w orld to a new
generation (that is, internalization as effectuated in s ocialization) does the
fundamental social dialectic appear in its t�tality.

Phase I: Externalization

Externalization, the first phase of the social construction of reality, refers to

how the social order as a particular society knows it, came to exist. Humans are

responsible for creating social worlds (Berger and Luckmann 1966; Kanagy and

Kraybill 1999). The social world consists of the cultural patterns created and

sustained over time and include the values, behaviors, institutions, ·and

organizations of a particular society. "Through interaction, we negotiate

particular interpretations; that is, we create meaning. Through talk, through

participation in the rituals of social interaction, through our active engagement

with the symbols and material realities of everyday life, we literally create what

we recognize as real" (Howard and Hollander 1997:35).

The social world as people know it, the types of houses that are built, the

jobs people work at, the activities engaged in for recreation t clothing fashions,

modes of transportation, family constellations, laws, values and beliefs are all

human creations. They did not fall from the sky. The social world was created

throughout history and it is continually reproduced. According to Berger and

Luckmann (1966:52) "Social order is the result of past human activity and . . .

exists only and insofar as human activity continues to produce it."

Lorber (1994) offers a history of the development or construction of

gender roles. According to Lorber gender roles have their origin in culture not in

biology or the genitals with which males and females are born. In early societies

both males and females along with children hunted and gathered food and were

responsible for production. As the technology of food gathering and production

changed over time roles became differentiated by sex. As the technology of how

hunting was conducted changed, children were no longer able to accompany the

parents. The women remained behind to mind the children and teach them the

ways of society until such time that they could be productive. Women became

responsible for cooking, clothing, tanning, and trapping small animals

Over the years these roles became routine, ritualized, and the norms of

society. Societies were now divided as women and men, girls and boys. As the

children grew, daughters spent time with the mothers learning housework and

childcare while the sons learned the roles of the fathers. Those who behaved

and fulfilled the roles as prescribed were rewarded and those who did not riske d

being ostracized.

Phase II: Objectivation

Human activity that is continually repeated becomes habit o r established

as a pattern . These patterns of behavior and beliefs become meaningful for

people who routinely engage in them. These social patterns then take on an

objective status even though they are subjective processes (Berger and

Luckmann 1 966; Kanagy and Kraybill 1 999). This objective status o r

objectivation is the second phase in the social construction of reality . Berger and

Luckmann ( 1 966:60) define objectivation as "the process by which the

externalized products of human activity attain the character of objectivity."


Kanagy a nd Kraybill (1999:20) define objectivation as "the process by which

aspects of the social world become "real" to people . . . (and] the firmly

established patterns of social life that are accepted as social facts."

Language is an important part of objectivation. "The language used i n

everyday life contin uously provides . . . the necessary objectivations and posits

the order within which these make sense and within which everyday life h as

meaning . . . " (Berger and Luckmann 1966:22). Thus, language serves to maintain

common objectivations. Language allows for the transmissio n and

understanding of meanings to others both in the present and the future. The

transmission of these meanings or "knowledge" must be transmitted by a social

apparatus or transmitters, which serve to legitimate "knowledge" (Berger and

Luckman n 1966).

The mass media not only entertains it also educates members of society.

The media (such as television or film) serve as the transmitters of "knowledge" or

objectivated meanings. Researchers have addressed this issue regarding fairy

tales, animated films, and television. Giroux (1997:53) sees animated films as

producers of culture in that "these films appear to i nspire at least as much

cultural authority and legitimacy for teaching specific roles, vah:Jes, and ideals as

do the more traditional sites of learning . . . " Lieberman (1989) found that women

are acculturated to traditional social roles through fairy tales, and Stone

( 1 975:48) n otes that the fairy tale may "inform your �ttitudes and acts."

The media present social constructions of reality i. e. , gender roles, in that ·

they present what are considered the cultural ideals. The media present

portrayals and interpretations of reality and viewers believe these are the· socially

sanctioned norms of behavior (Sallach 1974). According to Connelly Loeb

(1990:249) "television programs present an image of a socially constructed

reality that appears 'objective' but is based on the social values and ideas held

by a particular culture or subculture as true." The images presented by the

media are persuasive and provide meaning for those who view them. According

to Lott (1997) the mass media is the most potent communicators of how to do


The roles constructed for men and women through out history become

objectivated. Berger and Luckmann (1966) referred to the social reality of

everyday life as a continuum of typifications and reciprocal typifications as an

institution. For Berger and Luckmann roles are the typifications of what others

expect in specific social situations. The reciprocal typifications are how

individuals present themselves as male or female and the activities they perform

in any social situation. People perform in accordance with their gender by the

clothes they wear, their body language, the way they talk, a nd �he props they

use. They also expect the same from others in accordance with their gender. I n

Goffman's (1976:69) terminology this is a "display. "

Goffman formulates gender display as follows: "If gender b e defined as

the culturally established correlates of sex (whether in consequence of biology or


learning) then gender display refers to conventionalized portrayals of these

correlates." The point here is that once values, beliefs and behaviors become

typified and expected as roles i ndividuals' behavior will then be viewed iri any

given situation as gender appropriate or i nappropriate. Accordi ng to Romer

(1 981 :25) "advertisers and toy manufactures . . . play on children's desire to be

appropriate males or females. I n doing so, they contribute to the process of sex­

typing children by defin i ng what is available and what is sex appropriate."

The threat of being held accountable for one's behavior is the driving force

behind gender performance (Howard and Hollander 1 997). When individuals do

not abide by the socially accepted and prescribed presentations of gender, there

may be penalties of formal or informal sanctions (Lott; 1 997: Lorber 1 994;

O'Brien 1 999). Family members, peer groups, teachers, employers, as well as

others may impose sancti ons. I ndividuals who do not remain within the

boundaries of socially prescribed gender roles risk being ostracized. Learning

the consequences of appropriate and inappropriate behavior becomes a method

of social control to reinforce conformity to social norms of behavior. According to

Lindsey (1 997:54) "social control remains effective particularly when socialization

processes encourage the perpetuation of stereotyped portrayals of the gen�ers."

I n essence, social control reinforces gender stereotypes.

The objectivation of gender roles along with the threat of social san ctions

leads people to believe they have little choice in the roles they play_ or their

activities. In a sense they feel "locked in" to the gendered world i nto which they

were born. T his is what Berger and Luckmann ( 1 966) referred to as reification:

that human products are viewed as natural. As much as people believe these

social facts and the social order are fixed, they are in fact, not. Kanagy and

Kraybill (1999), point out how easy it is to forget that people construct the social

order and that no matter how ingrained routines become, they can be changed.

Change is evident by the number of wives and mothers currently working outside

the home.

Phase Ill: Internalization

Internalization is the third phase in the social construction of reality.

Internalization is an important part of socialization. It is the process by which the

norms and values of a society are passed on to the next generation and become

the norms and values of that generation. Kanagy and Kraybill ( 1999:21) describe

the process of internalization as "the objective social world 'out there• becomes

personal. It becomes 'mine and ours. ' Social reality becomes subjective reality.

Social beliefs turn into personal ones. . . " Berger and Luckmann (1966:61) define

internalization as a process "by which the objectivated social world is retrojected

into consciousness in the course of socialization ."

As people become socialized into their culture or socia l world they begin

to believe their choices are limited or that they have no choice but to believe

certain things or behave in a specific way. It is a� if people become prisoners of

their own or others creations. This process is referred to as reification.


According to Berger and Luckmann ( 1966:89) people tend to view their social

world "as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will."

Not only do individuals create social reality but they are also constrained

by the social realities created by those who lived before them ( H utchison and

Charlesworth 1998). People tend to forget the products of culture such as the

norms of behavior or laws, were created by pe_ople, and that as the prod�cers of

culture they are also able to change the products of their culture. It would be like

moving into a new home and believing that the outside color must remain the

same because the siding cannot be painted. The person would still have the

choice to reside the house. Berger and Luckmann ( 1966:61) describe a reified

world as a dehumanized world because the dialectic of man as the producer of

products is lost to consciousness. They sum up the social construction of reality

as: "Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social

product. n

Social constructionists maintain that gender identity as well as the

prescriptions and proscriptions (what is acceptable and what is not) of gender­

roles are acquired through the process of socialization (Durkin 1995; Mackey and

Hess 1982; Peirce 1989; Remafedi 1990). Mackey and Hess ( 1982:212) point

out that "the socialization process includes the development of gender identity,

as well as the learning of the dominant social definitions of reality, including


The term "gender role" refers to "everything a person says and does to

indicate to others or to the self the degree in whi ch one is male or female or

ambivalent" (Remafedi 1990:59). From birth, males and females are

differentiated by their sex. In American culture gender-roles are differentiated

accordi ng to dress, physical activity and work (Lindsey 1997). As children grow

they learn there are certain behaviors expected of them based on their sex.

The mass media provides a wide array of sources for gender roles and

their socializing effect on children. The research focuses on the characters

children identify with or want to be like, the relationship between amount of time

spent watching television and the strength of gender stereotyped attitudes, and

the perceptions of gender-typed behaviors.

Some studies have found that the more television a child watches the

more he or she endorses traditional gender stereotypes (Beuf 1974; Frueh and

McGhee 1975; Morgan 1982). Frueh and McGhee (1975) found the association

between watching high amounts of television and stronger traditional sex-role

development did not change with age and held equally for girls and boys.

Morgan (1982) found the amount of television viewing by girls was significantly

correlated with scores on a sex-roles stereotype index.

Children have been found to identify with, recall and reproduce activities,

and model the behaviors of gender stereotyped television and film characters

(Busby 1975; Maccoby and Wilson 1957; McArthµr an� Eisen 1976; Miller and

Reeves 1976; Reeves and Miller 1978). Reeves and Miller (1978) found that

children have a strong tendency to identify with same-sex television characters.

This tendency was especially true for boys. I n a study of 7th grade children,

Maccoby and Wilson (1957) found the children identified themselves with same­

sex leading characters in films.

In a study of 3 rd - 5th grade children, Miller and Reeves (1976) found

about half the children nominate television characters as someone they want to

be like when they grow up. The justification of the girls' choice was based on

physical attractiveness while the boys based their choice on physical aggression.

Signorielli and Lears (1992) found a significant relationship between the amount

of television children watch and having gender-stereotyped attitudes about


The mass media is one of the influential structures of a society and the

Disney films are a part of this institution . The patterned and repetitive messages

put forth in the media including the Disney films (which include the attitudes,

values, and beliefs of what is appropriate behavior for males and females) can be

considered social facts. These messages are external to the individual yet may

become part of individuals' thinking, become objectified, and become reality to

the individual. According to Hewitt (1994: 98) "among the earliest · facts about the

social world that children learn about and incorporate as a basic part of their

conceptions of themselves is that the social world is gendered."


Phase IV: Renovation

Kanagy and Kraybill (1999) have added a fourth phase to the social

construction of reality, which they refer to as renovation. In general terms

renovation means that objective reality, as people know it, can change. Even

though children are socialized into an already objectified world, when they

become adults they may change their values, beliefs or behavior in contrast to

their prior socialization. Kanagy and Kraybill (1999:22) define renovation as "the

process by which individuals and groups re-create their social worlds, rejecting

certain aspects constructed by previous generations and incorporating new

ideas, beliefs, and behaviors." Renovation can occur at the i ndividual level such

as changing religions or at the institutional level such as granting equal rights to

women. Change may be slow but the point is, it is possible. I n other words,

what people produce and what they believe to be natural or beyond change, can

in fact be changed.

Gender roles and stereotypes are constructed by the collectivity of

individuals who make up societies. " Because members of social groups must

constantly (whether they realize it or not) 'do gender' to maintain their proper

status, the seeds of change are ever present" (Lorber and Farrel 1 991: 9). These

may not be the same for all societies. Some believe gender roles are fixed and

based on biological sex, i. e. , their reproductive functions determine that men and

women must perform specific functions in society. bec�use it is natural for their

sex category. A social constructionist approach would argue that gender roles

were created and are reproduced throughout the course of history.

If gender roles were in fact natural and unchangeable due to biological

sex, gender roles would be the same for males and females across all cultures.

The fact that this is not the case provides support for Kanagy and Kraybill's

(1999) fourth phase of renovation. Cultural studies present evidence that male

and female roles are not required because of the biological sex of individuals.

Lorber ( 1988:2 15) makes reference to "African and American Ind ian societies

that have a gender status called manly hearted women - biological females who

work, marry and parent as men . . . they do not have to behave or dress as men

to have the social responsibilities and prerogatives of husbands and fathers;

what makes them is enough wealth to buy a wife."

It is possible for biological males and females to learn and practice the

opposite of what are considered the traditional gender roles for their sex. The

strategies women use to construct and maintain gender was revealed in

Garfinkel's famous study of a transsexual named Agnes. Agnes was born with

male genitals but underwent sex reassignment surgery at age 17. Before and

after the surgery Agnes would present himself as a female by his ·clothing, use of

makeup, hairstyles, presenting "feminine" mannerisms and holding a "feminine"

job (Garfinkel 1967).

While some small steps toward reducing gend�r stereotypes were noted

in the literature review, there is still a long way · to go for the med ia to renovate or

reconstruct the presentation of gender roles. Examples of renovation of gender

roles are visible in American culture and these changes attest to the possibility of

change. Women won the right to vote, the ability to control their own

reproduction through the use of birth control and/or abortion, and the right to

inherit property. They have also become major participants i n the institutions of

higher education and the world of work outside the home.

The portrayal of women in the media has tagged behind these seeds of

change. The year Walt Disney died, 1966, is the same year the National

Organization for Women (NOW) was established. This organization has

continued to lobby and secure rights for women for more tha n three decades. It

appears The Walt Disney Company is one organization NOW has not been able

to influence. According to Jackson (1996:51) "The Disney vision punctuated by

fairy-tale love stories, benevolent nature, and classic American virtues such as

hard work remains unchanged since Walt Disney master-minded it years ago."

The media serves as both producers and reproducers of knowledge. For

this reason it is important to explore Walt Disney's subjective meaning of reality

and whether he incorporated his personal viewpoints into the films produced

during his reign at The Walt Disney Company. Closely related to·this is the

question of whether Walt Disney's view of women and society i n general,

influence the more recent films or whether these films parallel the changing roles

of women in society?

The Social Construction of Reality and Disney Films

Walt D isney lived from 1901 to 1966 (Bart 1999; Jackson 1996). He lived

during the depression and WWI I. This was a time of a changing society.

Women had gone to work to help with the war effort and it was the time of the

rise of labor unions. In 1941 Walt Disney found himself in labor disputes with his

employees who went on strike (Rigby 1997; Schickel 1968). It was at this time

Walt Disney adopted a right wing conservative stance (Hearne 1997; Ostman


Disney held strong beliefs informed by the Protestant, white Anglo-Saxon

values (Ostman 1996; America's Sorcerer 1998). Disney held very patriarchal

views about women that reflected the cultural beliefs in the 1940s (O' Brien 1996;

Mosley 1990). According to Watts (1997:356), Disney held a "very old-fashioned

view of women . .. he held to a set of traditional . . . attitudes . . . [such as] . . . as

woman's natural place was in the home as a wife and mother."

Directors and producers of film and other forms of media include their

personal beliefs, attitudes and values into the products they produce (Street

1983; Cantor 1974). During the 1930s Disney personally picked a group of nine

male animators who would serve as the creative production team ·for the next

forty years. T his group commonly referred to as "the nine old men" also served

as Disney's board of directors (Eliot 1993; O'Brien 1996; Walley 1996).

According to O'Brien (1996) Disney did not believe w�men had the creativity to

work as animators.

According to Abel (1 995: 1 85) "the work of the Disney studios defines the

gender norm for the rest of the cartoon world." This world i n Disney films is one

of patriarchal values or what according to Watts (1 997:326) "might be called the

Disney Doctrine: a notion that the nuclear family, with its attendant rituals of

marriage, parenthood, emotional and spiritual instruction, and consumption was

the centerpiece of the American way of life. [This was] illustrated through a long

string of productions." Watts (1 997:329) describes the ideal ized female

according to Walt Disney as "self-sacrificing moral instructors, skilled domestic

managers, and compassionate caregivers." Watts continues that to counter

threats to this ideal Disney portrayed the female villains in opposition to this ideal

to show violations of proper conduct for women.

After Walt Disney's death the company floundered fin ancially a nd in the

output of animated films. Walt's nephew, Roy E . Disney, left the company in

1 977 due to creative differences, although he did remain on the board of

directors. In 1 984 when Michael Eisner took control of The Walt Disney

Company, Roy E . Disney returned to the company as the chai rman of animation

(Carvell 1 997). Roy E. Disney sees h imself as a link to the past and offers

suggestions on how to make each film better (Goldman 1 997).

Eisner has continued Walt Disney's vision of "a firm belief in core values"

(Capodagli and Jackson 1 999:201 ). According to O'Brien ( 1 996) the D isney

characters continue to perpetuate patriarchal val_ues. . This should come as no

surprise when one considers that Walt Disney. established his own training

program that continues today and serves to reinforce "the Disney culture and its

values . . . [and strives] . . . to meet the exacting standards Walt established . . .

Eisner may be more Walt than Walt" (Capodagli and Jackson 1999:5 & 200).

Walt Disney held very patriarchal views of women and society in general.

According to the research presented in this chapter Disney carried these

viewpoints into his business. Based on this research it can be expected these

viewpoints will be reflected in the full length animated Disney films that are the

focus of this study. According to Berger and Luckmann (1966:70) "objectivated

meanings of institutional activity are conceived of as "knowledge" and transmitted

as such." The Disney films in this study serve as the social apparatus used to

transmit "knowledge." The "knowledge" transmitted by these films are the

objectivated meanings of what it means to be male or female. If the findings of

the present study reflect the findings of stereotyped presentations in other forms

of media and of what it means to be male or female then it is assumed that the

patriarchal values held by Walt Disney will be the "knowledge" transmitted by the

films in this study.

In order for the message or "knowledge" conveyed in the Disney films to

be internalized it must be legitimized. Legitimation is "the process of 'explaining'

and justifying " and is built into the vocabulary of the social apparatus (Burger and

Luckmann 1966:93). "All transmissions of institutional meanings obviously

implies control and legitimation procedures. These a�e a�ached to the

institutions themselves and administered by the transmitting personnel" (Berger


and Luckman n 1 966: 7 1 ). Thus, Walt Disney and his team of male a n imators

served as the legitimators or transmitting personnel of "knowledge" transmitted

by the Disney fil ms produced before 1 970. The current legitimators i nclude the

employees at the Walt Disney Company who have a creative impact on the films

produced. This group of employees includes those who write the stories and

animators. Michael Eisner, Roy Disney Jr. , and the board of d irectors at the Walt

Disney Company serve to administer the legitimation process. The research

previously cited and the pilot study conducted by this researcher indicate the

current executives at The Walt Disney Company continue to transmit

"knowledge" or gender roles in the same fashion as Walt Disney himself did, in a

stereotyped fashion. It is assumed the same or similar objectified mean ings wil l

be present i n the films i n this study.


This chapter discussed the social constructionist perspective as a

framework to explain the construction of traditional gender roles and stereotypes

in the media. The roots of this perspective are found in the symbolic i nteraction

approach. The four phases in the social constructi on of real ity cdnstitute a

majority of this d iscussio n. The four phases are externaliz ation , objectivation,

internal ization , and renovation . Particula r emphas is was placed on the second

phase, objectivation , which is the proces s of patterns �f s �cial fife attai ni ng

objectivity. This process involves leg itimators transm itting objectivated meanings

through a social apparatus. The media is one such way in which thi s process

takes place.



The design of this research was qualitative content analysis. One

approach to content analysis is a "fishing expedition" (Krippendorff 1980) which

involves collecting the data, looking for themes or patterns that emerge during

the coding and collapsing of the data, identifying the variables, and analyzing the

data. Some of the concepts identified in the theoretical literature review served

as sensitizing concepts to the types of behavior, attitudes and characteristics that

became important during the coding process. These concepts included but were

not limited to: the words or phrases indicating what character traits the various

characters possess and their attitudes related to what behaviors are appropriate

for males and females. The context of how these behaviors and attitudes were

modeled or reinforced in the films was also recorded.

The methodology employed for this research involved a spiraling process

(Berg 1998), which required continually going backward and forward during the

research process making many decisions based on what emerged from the data.

As is typical of qualitative research, data collection and analysis occurred

simultaneously (Berg 1998; Lofland & Lofland 1995). This chapter describes in

detail how this process was carried out. This descript�on explains how the

sample was selected, tentative hypothesis derived from a pilot study, the coding

frame utilized including the reliability of this coding frame, and how the data were


Population and Sample

The population for this study included the full-length animated feature films

produced by the Walt Disney Company. At the time this research began there

were thirty-seven of these films. The time period of these films spans from 1937

to 1997. This population includes only those films that are fully animated and

were originally produced for theatrical release. This excludes such films as Mary

Poppins and Pete's Dragon where actors and actresses are combined with


A sample of sixteen Disney films were selected as meeting the following

criteria: (1 ) they are on the top 25 best selling home video list; (2) there is a plot

to the story; and (3) they are rated G for general audiences. The sample for this

study includes sixteen films. These films span the time period from 1 937 to 1 995

(Table 1 ). This includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) which is the

first full-length animated feature film released by the Walt Disney Company.

The top best selling films were used in the sample because they are

owned and viewed by the largest number of people. S eventeen of the top 25 all

time best selling home videos are full-length animated Disney films (Walt Disney

Company 1 998). The seventeenth Disney film on the_top 25 best selling list is

Fantasia. This film was excluded from the sample due to the nature of the film.

Fantasia is more about special effects and music and rather than a story with a


Table 1 Films Included in the Sample

Film Release Industry Wide

Date Ranking

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 2

Pinocchio 1940 21
Bambi 1942 9
l Cinderella
1950 4
Peter Pan 1953 18
Lady and the Tramp 1955 22
101 Dalmatians 1961 19
The Jungle Book 1967 13
The Aristocats 1970 23
The Fox and the Hound 1981 20
I., The Little Mermaid 1989 8
�Beauty and the Beast 1991 6
laddin 1992 3
The Lion King 1994 1
Pocahontas 1995 10
Toy Story 1995 5

Walt Disney Company (1998).

The sample includes at least one film from each decade beginning in

1937. Eight of the sixteen films in the sample were produced before 1970. The

remaining eight films were produced from 1970 to 1995. The Jungle Book (1967)

was the last film produced before W alt Disney passed away in 1966. This served

to allow for a clear and equal division in order to mak� comparisons between the
was living and those from the
films from the first three decades while Walt Disney

most recent or last three decades after his death. These are referred to as the

earlier films and later or most recent films respectively, in the research findings,

discussion and conclusions.

Design of this Study

One purpose of this research was description. Therefore, the films were

transcribed in order to examine the words or verbal text of the characters, to

assess attitudes about the nature of work, and to discover the indicators of their

character traits. The films all contained closed captioning , which allowed for

transcription of the words spoken along with other descriptors of actions. The

research strategy was to describe, compare, and contrast how males and

females are portrayed in these films. It was also exploratory in that emerging

themes were noted and described in keeping with a grounded theory approach

(Glaser & Strauss 1967). The transcriptions allowed for more concrete data and

a more in-depth analysis of the verbal text that may not have been possible while

only viewing the films.

The use of content analysis allows for flexibility in formulating hypotheses

and allows for drawing tentative conclusions from the content. Based on the

literature review and a pilot study conducted by this researcher, the following

served as guiding hypotheses :

H1 : The male characters in the Disney films �ill outnumber the female

H2: The female characters in the Disney films will be observed

participating in more typical stereotyped female activities in the
home than will male characters.

H3: The female characters in the Disney films will not be portrayed in
outside-the-home employment.

H4: The male characters in the Disney films will be portrayed as holding
societal power and the female characters will not.

HS: The male characters in the Disney films will be portrayed with
traditional masculine character traits and the female characters will
be portrayed with traditional feminine character traits.

Data Collection and Categorization

The data were collected while watching the Disney films, transcribing the

verbal text, and completing a coding frame for each film (Appendix A). Each film

was viewed a minimum of five times. Two viewings were for the purpose of

transcription. It was during this process that themes began to emerge.

Transcribing the films allowed for a hard copy of the text in the films. Words and

sentences could be coded in the margins as fitting into one of the categories on

the coding frame. This also served as a way to check the reliability of the

verbalizations of the characters in the films.

The films were watched a third time to complete the coding frame. The

coding fame was also completed from the transcriptions of the verbal text.

Themes emerged in some films, making it necessary to view the films again to

determine if these themes were present in the otber fil!11s. The films were viewed

again six months later to verify themes and to ensure that as much data as

possible were coded. This also served to verify i ntra-rater reliability.

Data were also collected from the descriptions on the back of the video

tape boxes as these descriptions g ive information about the characters such as

the major characters i n the story, their character traits, and the plot. P hysical

descriptors of the characters and age were other information provided on the


A coding frame was used to analyze data i n the five areas explored by

Busby (1974). These five areas i ncluded: physical appearance, character traits,

in-home labor, out-of-home employment, and famil ial or societal power.

Appendix A provides a n example of the coding frame uti lized while viewing the

films. Below are the i n itial tentative coding categories used i n this research.

1. Physical Appearance: male or female, body size, shape, build or figure,

clothing, hair, and apparent age.

2. In-Home Labor: activities related to the up keep of the home and/or yard.

3. Out-of-Home Employment: occupation or job title.

4. Societal or Familial Power: authority, status, holding a n important position .

5. Character Traits: traditional stereotyped feminine and maseuline traits

including: passive or aggressive, dependent or independent, emotional or

unemotional , and romantic or unromantic.

The coding categories reflect what was found i� the literature review i n

Chapter 2 and the areas i n which males and females are traditionally

stereotyped. The coding frame was completed while viewing the videos and

from the coding completed on the transcriptions of the films. The coding

frames were completed using descriptive terms as opposed to counting as is

sometimes done in content analysis. The coding with descriptive terms

included both the verbalizations of the characters and non-verbal

communication such as the activities or actions i n which the characters


According to Berger and Luckmann (1966) language plays an important

role in the transmission of objectivated messages. Language is not only

important i n presenting "knowledge" as it also provides meaning to those who

are the receivers of that "knowledge. " These films serve as the social

apparatus to transmit objectivated meanings or "knowledge" of what it means

to be male or female. Individuals form subjective meanings from objectivated

reality, not only from what they hear but also from what they see. Therefore,

it was necessary to code both the verbal and non-verbal communication

presented in these films. The coding frame serves to determine what

"knowledge" is being transmitted both verbally and non-verbally i n Disney


Coding the Characters

Most of the data recorded for physical appeara�ce, occupation, i n-home

labor, and societal or familial power could be recorded with single words. The

transcriptions were utilized to support the data on the coding frame and to

examine the words and phrases that indicated the attitudes and beliefs of the.

characters toward male and female roles.

The ratio of male to female characters was determined by tallying the

characters with speaking lines or who played a major role but didn't speak. This

included characters portrayed as human or human like (such as mermaids) and

animals or objects (such as a clock or teapot) (Appendix 8). The characters

were coded as male or female based on their name, physical appearance,

clothing, heterosexual couplings, and pronouns in the verbal text. In some

instances the names and voices did not allow for a distinction to be made and the

use of pronouns was lacking. In these cases the character was not coded.

Character traits were coded for the major male and female characters and

also for the villains. This determination was based on the characters centrality to

the plot and the role they pf ayed. The major male character is the hero and the

major female character is the heroine. Both male and female characters

portrayed villains. These categories emerged during the two viewings to

transcribe the verbal text. The titles of the films and the description of the stories

on the back of the videotape boxes also provided support for the determination of

these major characters and their centrality to the plot. Animals are central to

many of these films; therefore if they were the major characters their gender

related attributes and behavior were also coded.


The films and transcriptions were also analyzed for emerging themes that

related to gender. Based on the results of a pilot study of five D isney films by

this author, romance and heterosexual couplings were considered possi ble

emergent themes.

Character Traits and Indicators

Initially in the research process undertaken here the codi ng frame did not

include a specific list of traits for coding the characters in the films. As the list of

traits associated with the characters in the films studied grew beyond

manageability it was determined a specific list of traits would need to be

developed. A list of trai ts was developed from the gender typifications i dentified

in the literature review.

The literature review in Chapter 2 indicated that women are portrayed in

the media with traditional stereotyped feminine traits. These stereotyped traits

included: affectionate, emotional, expressive of romantic interests and sensitive

(Busby 1974; Streicher 1974), crying (Signorielli 1997), passive ( Busby 1974;

Levinson 1975; Mooney and Brabant 1990; and Williams et al. 1987), and

nurturing (Kortenhaus and Demarest 1993; Signorielli 1989; Williams et al. 1987).

Males were portrayed in the media with traditional stereotyped masculine traits.

Males were portrayed as assertive and athletic (Streicher 1974), independent

(Kortenhaus and Demarest 1 993; Streicher 1 974;�and Y'Jilliams et al. 1 987), as


having power and prestige (Signorielli 1989), and as using physical force or

brawn (Signorielli 1997) .

A pilot study conducted by this researcher revealed themes related to

traditional stereotyped gender roles and traits. A narrowing process of the list of

traits revealed in the literature review and the themes discovered in the pilot

study resulted in the selection of eight character traits for coding characters in the

present study. These traits were put into matrix form (Appendix C) to code the

hero, heroine, and villain in the sixteen films studied.

The following indicators were used to code the character traits for the

male heroes, female heroines, and villains.

Passive: compliant, accepting without objection

Aggressive: bossy, controlling , acting in hostile manner or

physically fighting

Dependent: needs to be rescued or taken care of

Independent: self-reliant, does not need others

Emotional: crying

Unemotional: does not cry

Romantic: expresses interest in opposite sex, flirting, kissing ,

marriage, offspring

Unromantic: no interest in opposite sex expressed

Counts were not made of how many times a character expressed or was

portrayed as possessing a specific trait. If a char�cter �as portrayed with the

indicator for a trait the box was marked on the matrix. It was possible for a

character to be coded as both passive and aggressive and dependent and

independent. A character coded as emotional (cried) could not be coded as

unemotional (did not cry). The same was true for characters expressing interest

in the opposite sex and coded as romantic. Once a character expressed this

interest they could not be coded as unromantic or having no interest in the

opposite sex.

Data Reduction and Analysis

Data analysis was both inductive and deductive and was accomplished

through content analysis. This analysis included the verbal text and visual

representations in the films. Data from the coding frames were displayed in

tables to discover patterns and differences between male and female characters.

This also allowed for the determination of changes in the presentation of the

characters over the years. Data were displayed in tables for male and female

characters for the following: number of male and female characters, emerging

categories of characters, in-home labor, out-of-home employment and societal

power. Indicators used to determine character traits were also displayed in

tables. These tables are presented in the findings.

Physical appearance indicators were put in a cross tabulation format to

determine if patterns or themes were present with respect to how the characters

were physically presented. This was also used to .iden�ify the emerging

categories of characters. A cross tabulation format was also used to identify


patterns of character traits. It was expected that other categories for analysis

would emerge during the research process.

Reliability of the Coding Frame

Inter-coder reliability was utilized to assess the reliability of the coding

frames and for confidence in the accuracy of the findings for physical appearance

and character traits (Appendix C & D). This process incorporated the use of a

cross tabulation format for the second coder. A non-traditional college student

was recruited for this task. Physical appearance and character traits were

singled out for reliability checks because they comprise the most subjective

portions of this study. In-home labor, occupation and societal power could be

substantiated by the words in the verbal text transcriptions. The coder was

provided with a definition of each item on the coding frame. Reliability coding

was completed for the male hero, female heroine, and the villain in one-half or

eight of the films in this study. Inter-coder reliability resulted in 93% agreement

on physical appearance and 92% agreement on character traits. This falls with

the recommended guidelines of 90% agreement recommended by Miles and

Huberman (1994: 64).




The five classifications used by Busby ( 197 4) to define sex-role standards

in network children's programs were used for analyzing the gender content in the

Disney films. The five areas include: physical appearance, character traits, in­

home labor, out-of-home employment, and societal and familial power. The

sixteen films studied tend to follow the gender messages and stereotypes in the

literature reviewed. In some instances the Disney characters crossed traditional

gender lines. This was most evident in character traits.

Male-Female Ratios

Males outnumber females in all but one of the films when all the

characters are considered including the animals (Table 2). The number of males

to females ranged from almost equal in Cinderella ( 1950) to a high of 12 males to

1 female in Aladdin ( 1992) . The remaining films had a ratio of males to females

within this range with the exception of Bambi ( 1942). In Bambi ( 1942) there were

6 male and 8 female characters.

The ratio of males to females hit a high of more than 6 to 1 in 1967 with

The Jungle Book and then appears to decline for the next two and a half decades

until it hit an all time high of 12 male characters to 1 fem_ale character in Aladdin

( 1992). The three most recent films in this study- ( The Lion King 1994,

Pocahontas 1995 and Toy Story 1995) indicate the number of male characters is

still more than twice the number of female characters.


Film Males Females

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 10 2

Pinocchio 11 2
Bambi 6 8
Cinderella 9 8
Peter Pan 13 11
Lady and the Tramp 23 10
101 Dalmatians 19 10
The Jungle Book 20 3
The Aristocats 17 6
The Fox and the Hound 8 3
The Little Mermaid 8 3
Beauty and the Beast 10 4
Aladdin 12 1
The Lion King 9 4
Pocahontas 10 3
Toy Story 14 5

Seven of the films in this study have a narrator at some point in the story.

Males narrate six of the films in this study. Cinderella (1950) is the only film

narrated by a female. Male characters who appear in three of the fil ms also

narrate the story. These include: Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (1940), Bagheera in

The Jungle Book (1967), and Pongo in 1 0 1 Dalmatians (1961). The narrator at

the beginning of Aladdin (1992) is shown as a character but is not a character

that plays a role in the actual story.


Categories of Female Characters

Five categories of female characters emerged during this study (Table 3).

These categories emerged based on the role the character plays and their

physical appearance. The first category is the female heroine who is the central

female character in the story. This category includes: Snow White, Cinderella,

Wendy, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Ariel, and Belle. These characters are central to

the story and are young and attractive.




Snow White Nakoma Anistasia

Cinderella Blue Fairy Drucella
Pocahontas Tinkerbell
Jasmine Tiger Lily
Ariel Mermaids
Belle Mary Darling
Girl from man village Anita
Wendy Darling Darling



Madame Stepmother
Fairy Godmother Queen
Nanny Ursula
Mrs. Tweed Cruella Deville
Carlotta Aunt Sarah
Indian Woman

A second group of females are young and attractive but play a supporting

role to the central female character. These characters include: Nakoma, the Blue

Fairy, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, the girl from the man village, Mary Darling, Anita,

Darling, and the mermaids. Anita in 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Darling in Lady

and the Tramp ( 1955) are the central female character but are considered

supporting female characters because the stories in these two films are more

about the animals involved, Pongo and Perdita and Lady and Tramp,


The third category of female characters is also made up of supporting

characters but are matronly type older females. These characters include:

Madame, the Fairy Godmother, Nanny, Mrs. Tweed, and Carlotta. Madame and

Mrs. Tweed are the major female characters in The Aristocats ( 1970) and The

Fox and the Hound (1981) respectively. But again the story is more about the

animals in the stories. These women are portrayed as kind, gentle and caring.

The fourth category of female characters is women who are old and

unattractive. These characters are considered to be in a supporting role as the

stories in which they are portrayed are more about other female characters

whether the characters are portrayed as people or animals. This category of

female characters includes: Cruella DeVille, Ursula, the Queen, the stepmother,

Aunt Sarah, and the Indian woman. None of these women possess attractive

character traits, as they are loud, rude, and abrasiye. �ome of them also play

the villain in the story. A fifth but small category. includes young unattractive

females. This category includes only two characters, Anistasia and Drucella, the

stepsisters in Cinderella ( 1 950). These females are also considered supporting


Physical Appearance of Female Characters

The heroines and the majority of the young supporting female characters

are attractive,
- � shapely,
petite, and f�minine
., - Most of the heroines have
long hair (Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Belle, and the girl from the man village)

while two (Snow White and Cinderella} have shorter hair. Snow White's hair is

about chin length and Cinderella's hair is about shoulder length. The hair colors

cover the spectrum of hair color: blonde, brunette, red, and black.
1 These female characters are thin with hourglass figures and developing or

developed breasts. Wendy and the girl from the man village are exceptions to

having breasts, but they still have the shape of an hourglass with a narrow waist

and defined hips. The young female characters all appear to be well under the

age of thirty. Ariel is actually 1 6-years-old as she makes reference to her age in

The Little Mermaid ( 1 989). Most of the female heroines appear to be a couple

years older or a couple years younger than Ariel.

Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Tinkerbell appear to be a couple years

older as do Snow White and Cinderella. Wendy and the girl from the man village

appear younger. In The Jungle Book ( 1 967) Mowgli is ten-years-old and the girl

from the man village appears to be about the same age. In Peter Pan ( 1 953)

Wendy appears to be about 14-years-old but she still sleeps in the nursery and is

referred to as a child.

These characters have small facial features such as their nose, mouth,

chin, cheeks, and ears. The eyes are small on some of these characters such as

Snow White, Pocahontas, Cinderella, Nakoma, the Blue Fairy, Mary Darling,

Anita, and Darling. The other characters have big bright eyes such as Jasmine,

Ariel, Belle, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, the girl from the man village and the mermaids.

These characters' big eyes are differentiated from the old unattractive women by

the colors used around the eyes. The unattractive females with large eyes have

dark colors (such as black, gray or blue) or heavy makeup on their eyelids or

underneath their eyes such as eye shadow or eyeliner. The color and makeup is

exaggerated and over done in such a way as to make them look gaudy and

unattractive. The young females also have very distinguishable eyelashes,

which is not the case with the older women. The eyelashes are not always

present or at least not as visible in the older women. Eyelashes are one feature

that distinguishes the female animal characters from the male animal characters.

All of the matronly older supporting females are presented as fat with the

one exception of Madame who is tall and thin. These women are P.resented with

white or gray hair that is either short or worn up on top of their head. These

women have small facial features, wrinkles, and are soft spoken.

The women presented as old and unattractive are equally divided between

thin (the stepmother, the Queen, and Cruella DeVille) and fat (Aunt Sarah,

Ursula, and the I ndian woman). Some of these women are portrayed with small

facial features but with an elongated face. The others have large exaggerated.

facial features such as a large mouth, big teeth or a big nose. I n some cases the

nose is long and pointed and in other cases the nose is pug like. Some of these

women have fat cheeks or double chins.

In either case, the makeup and colors previously mentioned are used in

such a way as to make them unattractive. Lines on the face extending from the

nose down the sides of the mouth are another way these women are made to

look unattractive. These lines are not visible on the faces of the young attractive

females whether they are the heroine or a supporting female character. The

voices on the old unattractive females are loud, sinister or deeper than the voices

of the young attractive female characters or the matronly older women.

The hairstyles of these women are not flattering. Cruella DeVille and

Ursula have hair that looks like it hasn't been combed in a month. It looks as if

they did try to comb it they may not pe able to get the comb through their hair.

The other women wear their hair up on their head.

The two stepsisters in Cinderella ( 1 950) are portrayed very similar to the

old unattractive supporting female characters. Even though Anistasia and

Drucella are young and somewhat thin, they also have unattractive faces and

exaggerated body p� rts. These girls have the lines on their faces the other

young female characters are lacking. These two femal�s also have big noses,

big feet and protruding butts. The1r voices are loud and have a screeching

sarcastic tone to them.

With the exception of Jasmine, all the female characters are wearing

dresses. Jasmine is wearing balloon pants with a shirt that extends just below

her breasts so that her stomach is fully visible. The female characters also wear

earrings, necklaces, and bows in their hair. The animal characters in some films

are distinguishable as females by their clothing or adornments such as the

female mice in Cinderella (1 950) wearing aprons, dresses or scarves and Marie

in The Aristocats (1 970) wearing a pink bow.

Categories of Male Characters and Physical Appearance

Six categories of males emerged during data analyses, which include: the

heroes, young supporting males, fathers, villains, children/boys, and a group of

males who serve as an assistant to another male character (Table 4). There are

similarities in the physical appearance of the heroes and the young supporting

males and between the fathers, villains, and group of male assistants. The male

children do not lend themselves to the same analysis as the adults as they all

appear to be 1 0-years-old or younger and are for the most part nondescript. One

exception to this is Lampwick in Pinocchio ( 1 940) who displays some of the

same unattractive features as the villains and the group of male assistants.

other male characters in these two categories, he proves to be the exception to

the generalizations of the physical appearance of these men.

The category of heroes includes the Prince in Snow White and the Seven

Dwarfs ( 1937), the Prince in Cinderella ( 1950), the beast as the Prince in Beauty

and the Beast ( 199 1) , Eric, Aladdin, John Smith, and Peter Pan. The facial

features of these characters are proportionate meaning that their eyes,· nose,

mouth, teeth and ears fit the size of their face and head. These features are not

exaggerated or shaped as unattractive. These men also have a chiseled look to

their face with a strong jaw line. They do not wear facial hair such as a beard or

mustache and their eyebrows appear well groomed. Peter Pan is once again the

exception as he does have pointed ears. Just as some of the young attractive

female characters are presented with small eyes and some with large eyes so

too are the attractive young male characters. The males with big eyes have eyes

that are bright and appealing not deep, dark or beady as the males in the other


The heroes are presented with what could be described as an average

build meaning not too thin and without a protruding stomach. These characters

are tall, have broad shoulders, big chests, narrow waists and what appear to be

muscular arms and legs. Once again Peter Pan is the exception as he is thin

and does not appear to be muscular even though his physical activity indicates

he may be strong. Peter Pan also does not appear to_ be tall even though Wendy

indicates he is taller than she expected. In the film he does not appear to be

much taller than Wendy.

The young supporting male characters include: Gaston, Kocoum, Thomas,

J im and Roger . While these characters appear to be in the same age range as

the heroes not all of them display the same physical appearance. Gaston and

Kocoum possess proportionate features, are of average build, are tall, ,have

broad shoulders, and appear muscular. Thomas fits this description as well but

doesn't appear as big. This may be because he is presented next to bigger male

characters such as John Smith and Governor Ratcliff. Jim and Roger are

portrayed differently in that their height is the only characteristic they have in

common with the other male characters in this category. These two men are

thin, Jim has facial hair and Roger has an exaggeratedly big nose. Roger is still

described as handsome by Pongo, the narrator of 101 Dalmatians ( 1961 ).

The characters portrayed as fathers include: Powhatan, the Sultan,

Maurice, the Chief, King Triton, George Darling, Geppetto, and the King. None

of these characters have the exact same characteristics as each other nor do

they appear to be physically similar or similarly attractive as the heroes. The

physical characteristics are the contributing factors to these characters not being

attractive. These physical characteristics vary and include: tall, short, facial hair,

lack of facial hair, exaggerated features, proportionate features, balding, or a full

head of hair. The one feature all the fathers haye in ?ommon is that they are old.

Powhatan provides the major exception to the. variety of physical features


because age is the one factor that differentiates his appearance from that of the


The physical appearance of the villains and the group of male assistant

characters contain the same variety of physical features as the group of father

characters. The category male assistants have one feature in common which is

older age. Two features common to all eight villains are that they are all old and

they all have exaggerated facial features. Most of the villains are tall and fat, and

some have broad shoulders. Others are tall, thin and lanky. The exaggerated

features include one or more of the following: fat cheeks, long faces, double

chins, slanted eyes, overly large eyes, bushy eyebrows, large teeth, a big mouth,

or an oversized nose or ears. At least half the villains have facial hair - a beard,

a mustache or both.

In-Home Labor

The sixteen films analyzed were coded for what types of in-home labor

were performed and whether that labor was performed by a male character or

female character. In-home labor is any activity related to the upkeep of the home

or yard. Overall there is not a great deal of in-home labor portrayed in these

films but the number of female characters performing in-home labor far outweigh

the number of male characters doing so (Table 5). The ratio of female chores to

male chores is more than 6: 1 .


Table 5 Characters by Gender Performing In-Home Labor

Film Female Number Male Number

Characters of Chores Characters of Chores

Snow White and Snow White 4

The Seven Dwarfs

Cinderella Cinderella
Mouse 1

Peter Pan Mary Darling 1 George 1

Wendy 1 Smee 1

Lady and the Darling 2

Tramp Aunt Sarah 1

10 1 Dalmatians Anita 1
Nanny 4

The Jungle Book Girl 1

The Aristocats Duchess 1 Edgar 2

The Fox and Mrs. Tweed 4 Slade 1

the Hound

The Little Mermaid Carlotta 2

Beauty and the Beast Belle 1 Lumiere 1

Mrs. Potts 1

Aladdin Jasmine 1

Pocahontas Pocahontas 1
Nakoma 1

Toy Story Andy's mom

Sid's mom 1

Total Chores Performed 39 � 6


Twenty different female characters performed twenty different tasks for a

total of thirty-nine chores compared to five male characters performing four

different in-home chores for a total of six chores. The in-home labor the male

characters portray are serving food, feeding the dog, ironing, and cooking. In

one instance the serving of food was on a ship and all the characters were men.

The ironing and cooking were performed by Edgar the butler in The Anstocats

(1 970) and could be considered part of his job. In another instance the cooking

is implied. In The Fox and the Hound ( 1 98 1 ) the dog Chief makes a comment

about Slade cooking grits and fatback but he is never actually shown in the

kitchen or cooking.



Sweep Decorate tree Serve food

Dust Gather water Feed dog
Laundry Knit Iron
Cook Feed animals Cook
Bake Serve food
Build fire Gather Food
Iron Give birthday party
Wash windows Carry wood
Bathe animals Feed baby
Wash Floors Put kids to bed
Sew Rock baby
Baby sit Push baby in stroller

The female characters engage in a wider variety of in-home chores

traditionally considered �omen'- � w�r� (Table 6). These chores include:


sweeping, dusting, washing windows and floors, cooking, baking, washing

clothes, ironing, collecting wood, building a fire, gathering food and water,

sewing, knitting, feeding animals, feeding or serving male characters, decorating

the Christmas tree, and bathing the pets. Other tasks depicted are related to

child care and include feeding the children, rocking a child in a chair, pushing a

baby stroller, babysitting, and putting the children to bed.

In Cinderella (1950) Cinderella is treated as a maid in her own home. Her

stepmother and both stepsisters order her to do everything around the house.

T hey do nothing for themselves. Once when, Cinderella tells her stepmother she

has the work done she is told to do it again.� . ln Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs (1937) Snow White is also treated as a maid in her own �ome. When

she finds the dwarfs' cottage, she immediately goes to work cleaning. Later
. . .

when Snow White wants to stay with the dwarfs, she offers to keep house and

cook for them in exchange for a place to stay These _two characters perform a

large portion of the in-home labor cited.


Out-of-Home Employment

The characters in the films were coded for out-of-home employment. The

coding was based on the character having an occupation or job title. Those

characters having a title of royalty were not included in coding out..of-home

employment. These characters are included in the co�ing for societal power

based on their titles such as King; Queen, Prince or Princess.


It is difficult to actually determine the number of male characters portrayed

in occupations due to the fact that some jobs are shown with large numbers of

people engaging in the particular job. Some examples of this include the

vendors on the streets in Aladdin ( 1992) , the sailors on the ship in Pocahontas

( 1995) , the soldiers in Toy Story ( 1995) , and the pirates on the ship in Peter Pan

( 1953). Overall male characters are portrayed as having a wide variety of

occupations or job titles (Table 7).



Miner Lawyer Actress

Butler Court Conductor Sheep Tender
Inventor Bookstore worker Thief
Asylum worker Guard F airy
Governor Sailor
Sheriff Pizza worker
Soldier Space Ranger
Huntsman Musician
Woodcarver Carnival worker
Coachman/driver Office job
Pirate/thief Chef
Dogcatcher Policeman
Salesman Doctor

The occupations of the male characters span low status positions such as

a pizza delivery person in Toy Story ( 1995) or dogcatcher in Lady and the Tramp

( 1955) to higher status occupations such as doctor, lawyer· or G overnor. Many of

the jobs depicted are not considered high status jobs. In fact, there are not many

that would be considered white-collar middle class jobs. George Darling makes

a reference to not being able to show his face in the office if he misses a party

but there is no mention of what type of office so one can only assume this may

be considered a white-collar position.

Some of the characters depicted in occupations are not what can be

considered good role models or positions to which people would actuall'y aspire.

The sailors on the ship in Pocahonta s ( 1 995) are planning to take gold and land

from the Indians and will kill them to do so. The Huntsman in Snow White and

the Seven Dwarfs ( 1 937) has to take orders from the Q ueen and is to kill Snow

White and return with her heart. In Pinocchio (1 940) the coachman is buying

children, and in Beauty and the Bea st (1 991 ) the head of the asylum is going to

take Maurice to the asylum and lock him up so that Gaston can pursue Belle's

hand in marriage.

Only one female character in the sixteen films is indicated to have held a

position and it was in the past. In The Aristocats ( 1 970) George Hautecourt

mentions that Madame was at one time in Carmen. She admits that it was her

favorite role and she reminisces about celebrating her grand premiere. The

other occupations depicted for female characters are a stretch as employment.

In Toy Story (1 995) Bo Peep tends sheep. In 101 Dalmatians (1 961) Cruella

DeVille is a thief who steals puppies to make fur coats. Tinkerbell, the Blue Fairy

and the fairy godmother all "do" magic which are their jobs,. but these are not

positions of employment for which people really train or aspire. There were no

other female characters portrayed as having or having had a job or occup�tion.

Societal Power

Characters were coded based on the societal or familial power they hold

which means the character holds an important position or has authority ·or status.

Most of the characters coded as having societal power were coded as such due

to the titles they hold (Table 8). These titles in and of themselves are indicative

of position, status and authority. The male characters with a title or societal

power outnumber the female characters by more than five times.



Prince (Snow White) Royal Vizier Princess: Snow White

Bambi: Prince Indian Chief Princess: Tiger Lily
Stage: Prince of Forest Chief Powhatan Princess: Jasmine
Prince (Cinderella) King's Messenger Queen : Stepmother
Prince Eric Governor Ratcliff Madame
Prince/Beast Captain Hook
Prince Achmed Captain J ohn Smith
Prince Ali (Aladdin) Colonel Harty
Prince Simba Sergeant (Toy Story)
King (Cinderella) Policeman
King Louie Dogcatcher
King Triton Sheriff (Woody)
King Mufasa Shere Khan
Sultan Peter Pan
Grand Duke Gaston

Four female characters have societal power based on a title of royalty.

The four characters are Snow White who is a Princess, Snow White's stepmother

the Queen, Tiger Lily a Princess, and Jasmine a Princess. The Q ueen exhibits

her power when she orders the Huntsman to kill Snow White. Jasmine also

utilizes her power when she orders the guards to "unhand him, by order of the

Princess" (Aladdin 1992). Madame in The Aristocats ( 1970) holds societal power

by the nature of her wealth. This woman owns stocks and bonds, a mansion and

a country chateau, jewelry, and at the end of the film establishes a home for cats.

Most of the male characters possessing societal power do so by the

nature of a position of title. Not all of these titles are those of royalty although

they are the majority. Of the male characters holding societal power, 16 of them

have a title of royalty. These include eight characters as a Prince, four as Kings,

and one each as Grand Duke, Sultan, Royal Vizier and the King's messenger in

Cinderella ( 1950) who has the authority to try the glass slipper on every maiden

in the land. Ten male characters hold titles that indicate status, authority or

position but are not considered royalty. These include two captains ( one of

sailors on a ship and one of the pirates also on a ship), two Indian chiefs, and

one each of Governor, Colonel, Sergeant, sheriff, policeman and dogcatcher.

The dogcatcher is included because in Lady and the Tramp ( 1955) the

dogcatcher does have authority in the lives of the dogs, and most of the story is

about the dogs.


Five male characters are portrayed as having societal power but it is not

due to their having a position with a title of royalty or authority. In Beauty and· the

Beast (1991 ) Gaston appears to have quite a bit of status and authority. The

town people sing about Gaston and how great he is and people fall all over them­

selves for him. He also is able to get the head of the asylum to l ock up Maurice

in an effort to convince Belle to marry him. In The Jungle Book (1969) s·here

Khan has societal power as everyone in the jungle fears him.

Peter Pan is the third character with status and authority but without title.

Everyone in Never Land looks up to Peter Pan and looks to him for help but they

also do what he asks and follow his orders. The exception is Captain Hook who

doesn't hold Peter Pan in esteem but fears his ability to feed him to the crocodile.

In 1 0 1 Dalmatians (1 961) Pongo has societal power, as he is able to enl ist the

help of the other animals to help find the missing puppies. On the journey to find

the puppies, Pongo appears to have status among the other animals, as they are

all wil ling to help in any way they can . In Toy Story (1 995) Woody is the l eader of

the toys. Woody conducts the meetings of the toys in Andy's room and assigns

tasks to each toy. Woody does have the title of Sheriff but this does not appear

to be what gives him status and authority. It appears to be based on his

leadership abilities.

Three male characters hold titles previously mentioned; sergeant, colonel

and captain, but it is not evident they have any societal pow�r in the sense it is

used here. These three characters are all in 101' Dalmatians (1961) and include

Captain a horse, Colonel a sheepdog, and Sergeant Tibs a cat. These

characters are referred to by the names Captain, Colonel and Sergeant but they

do not appear to have any more status or authority than any other character in

the story. Another male character not included as having societal power is Chief,

a dog in The Fox and the Hound (1981). It appears this is the name Slade gave

his dog. Two female characters have names that may indicate royalty but these

two characters were not counted as females with societal power. These two

characters are the cows Duchess and Queenie in 101 Dalmatians (1961). On�e

again these appear to be only a name and there are no indicators of societal

power associated with these characters.

Familial Power

Familial power is not evident in all the films studied. In the films where no

family power is evident there are mothers, fathers, or both, but the characters

show no exercise of authority in that position of power. The films where this is

the case include: Pinocchio (1940); Lady and the Tramp (1955); The Ari stocats

(1970); The Fox and the Hound (1981); Beauty and the Beast (1991); and Toy

Story (1995).

The number of male characters and female characters displaying familial

power are almost equal. Male characters display instances of exercising faniilial

power in six of the films. Four of the fathers exercising pow!3r are doing so with

their daughters. Powhatan orders his daughter Pocahontas · to stay away from

the white men; King Triton orders Ariel to stay away from the surface of the water

and the humans; the Sultan is forcing Jasmine to marry; and George Darling lays

down the law when he decides Wendy must move out of the nursery and grow


In 101 Dalmatians (1961) Ro_ger makes the decision they will keep the

puppies and stands up to Cruella Devil le as Anita tries to be n i ce. Pongo also

has familial power and earns status from Roger due to his fertility. In two

situations Roger comments about the number of puppies he thinks Pongo has .

sired when he says "Fifteen puppies! Why Pongo boy, that's marvelous. It's

fabulous. Why you old rascal." Roger refers to him as an old rascal again at the

end when they count 101 puppies. Mufasa exercises authority over Simba, his

son, when he orders him to stay away from certain areas beyond the borders of

the Pride Lands.

Female characters exercise familial power in only four of the stories. The

Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is also Snow Whites'

stepmother. She forces Snow White to work as a scullery mai d in her own home.

In Cinderella (1950) the stepmother and the two stepsisters order Cinderella to

do all the housework and to wait on them constantly. At times the stepmother

takes control but at other times the stepsisters are allowed to do what they want

toward Cinderella such as ripping her dress to shreds before the ball .

I n Bambi ( 1940) Thumper's mother i s constantly remi�ding him about

what is appropriate and inappropriate to say. At times she asks Thumper "what

did your father say?" but the father is never seen in the movie so Thumper

answers to his mother. In The Jungle Book (1967) Winifred, the mother elephant

and wife of Colonel Harty, stands up to her husband and threatens to take over

command of the herd. Colonel Harty backs down and does what Winifred wants.

Emerging Themes

Numerous themes emerged during the analysis of the data. The verbal

text and the physical action in the films reveal views of women and their place .or

role in society. Themes that became apparent about the views of women include

terms to refer to women, the importance of their physical appearance and the

importance of that in attracting a male, the role of women in society, women's

emphasis on attracting a mate and marriage, what women look for in men, and

indicators of character traits presenting female characters as emotional, passive

and dependent.

Terms Used to Refer to Women

Throughout the films studied, women are referred to with terms other than

their names (Table 9). Terms used to refer to a particular individual female

character include: "babe" (Pinocchio 1940), "baby" (Lady and the Tramp 1 955;

The Aristocats 1970), "sweetheart, " "dearie," "honey," "dames" and "trick" (Lady

and the Tramp 1 955), "dolls" ( Toy Story 1995), "shrew'' and ."pussycat" (Aladdin

1 992) "chicks" (Ari stocats 1970), "wench" (Peter Pan 1940), and "duckie" ( 10 1

Dalmatians 196 1). One specific word, "little," is used repeatedly when speaking

of female characters. This was evident in Lady and the Tramp ( 1955) "little.

blubinski," 101 Dalmatians ( 196 1) "little tarter," Beauty and the Beast ( 199 1) "little

wife," Toy Story ( 1995) "little lady," and Aladdin ( 1992) "little woman."

Table 9


Babe Little lady

Baby Little tarter
Chicks Little wife
Dames Little woman
Dearie Pussycat
Dolls Shrew
Duckie Sweetheart
Honey Trick
Little blubinski Wench

Descriptors of Female Characters

Women were not only referred to with labels but also in descriptive terms

(Table 1O). These include "difficult and stubborn" (Beauty and _ the Beast 1991),

"crazy woman driver," "mad old lady, " and "sweet simple," ( 10 1 Dalmatians

196 1), "full of wicked wiles" ( Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1 937) "girls talk

too much" and "a jealous female can be tricked into- anythin�" (Peter Pan 1953) ,

"picky" (Aladdin 1992), "foolishness" (Pocahontas 1995), "damsels in distress"


(Aristocats 1970), and "bungle-headed," "meddlin" and "empty headed" ( The Fox

and the Hound 198 1).

Figure 1 0


Bungle headed Fragile

Crazy Full of wicked wiles
Damsel in distress Jealous
Delicate Mad
Difficult Meddling
Empty-headed Picky
Foolish Talk too much

Physical Appearance Descriptors: Female Characters

The importance of the physical appearance of the female characters is

evident in both the actions they perform and the verbal comments made by other

characters regarding the female characters' appearance. In at least half of the

films studied at least one female character is described as beautiful. Snow

White's beauty surpasses that of the Queen. This angers the Queefl to the point

of trying to have Snow White killed. One of the dwarfs describes her as

"beautiful, just like an angel" while another dwarf comments that "she's mighty

pretty" (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937). The narrator in Cinderella

( 1950) describes her stepmother as "bitterly jealous of Cinderella's charm and

beauty. " In 101 Dalmatians ( 196 1) Pongo is searching ror a mate for Roger

when he notices Perdita. He describes her as "the most beautiful creature on

four legs."

In The Aristocats (1970) O'Malley offers to help Duchess and the kittens

get back to Madame. He tells them "helping beautiful dames. . . is my specialty."

In The Fox and the Hound ( 198 1) Vixey is sitting in the sunlight and Big Mama

tells her not to move because she looks beautiful. When Tod sees Vixey· for the

first time he comments that she is "the most gorgeous, most beautiful." In Beauty

and the Beast ( 199 1) Gaston describes Belle as "the most beautiful girl in town.

and that makes her the best." The beast makes the remark "she's so beautiful."

In Aladdin ( 1992) Aladdin describes Jasmine as "smart and fun and

beautiful... she's got these eyes that just. .. and this hair, wow, and her smile." In

The Little Mermaid ( 1989) Eric doesn't actually describe Ariel as beautiful but

says she "had the most beautiful voice."

Female characters are described in other terms equated with physical

appearance. In The Little Mermaid ( 1989) Ursula wants Ariel's voice and tells

her that she will still have her pretty face and that she should not underestimate

the importance of body language. As Ursula tells her this she shakes her body

seductively. In 101 Dalmatians ( 196 1) Pongo sees no reason Roger doesn't

"deserve an attractive mate." As women walk by the house Pongo watches them

through the window and rates them as too short, too fat, and too fancy.

Tony the chef advises Tramp that Lady is "a pretty, S"'!'eet kid... you take

Tony's advice and settle down with this one" (Lady and the Tramp 1955). In

Bambi ( 1942) the owl describes mating to Bambi, Thumper and Flower. Mating

is referred to as "twitter patted." The owl tells them:

Nearly everybody gets twitter patted in the springtime. For

example you're walking along minding your own business.
You're looking neither to the left or to the right when all of a
sudden you run smack into a pretty face. You get weak in the
knees, your head's in a whirl, then, you feel light as a feather.
Then before you know it you're walking on air. And then you
know what? You're knocked for a loop and completely loose
your head.

At this point the owl was not referring to one particular female character as

having a pretty face but the next thing that happens is the female skunk and

rabbit appear and Flower and Thumper get "twitter patted."

The verbalizations about beauty and pretty faces are not the only

indicators of the importance of physical appearance. A number of the female

characters engage in actions that also indicate the importance of their physical

appearance. Snow White's stepmother the Queen seeks assurance from the

mirror that she is the fairest in the land. The Queen becomes jealous of Snow

White's beauty, as does Cinderella's stepmother. Both women are so jealous

they go to great lengths to undermine their stepdaughters, the Queen wants

Snow White dead and Cinderella's stepmother goads the stepdaug �ters into

tearing apart the dress Cinderella is going to wear to the ball.

The Queen is not the only character to consult a mirror about her

appearance. Jasmine, Madame and Tinkerbell are also shown in front of the

mirror checking themselves out. Madame touches up her hair just before George

Hautecourt is to arrive. While Tinkerbell is standing on a mirror she looks at


herself, runs her hands simultaneously down both sides of her body to· her hips

then holds her hands out in front of her in such a way as to show the

measurement of her hips.

Clothes are also important to appearance. · In Snow White and the Seven

Dwarfs (1937) Snow White runs inside when the Prince rides u p on his horse.

Snow White looks at her ragged clothes as if that is the reason she ran away

from the Prince. · In Cinderella (1950) the stepmother will allow Cinderella to

attend the ball if she "can find something suitable to wear." When the fairy

godmother measures Cinderella for a dress, she wants something that will go

with her eyes, something that is "simple but daring too." In Beauty and the Beast

(1991) Belle is supposed to have dinner with the beast. The wardrobe is trying to

convince Belle to dress for supper. When the wardrobe offers Belle a dress she

tells her "you'll look ravishing in this one."

Physical Appearance Descriptors: Male C haracters

Comments on physical appearance are not limited to the female

characters. Female characters are also interested in male characters who are

handsome as is indicated by the verbal remarks they make. In _ Snow White and

the Seven Dwarfs (1937) the dwarfs want Snow White to tell them a true love

story. As she starts to tell the story the dwarfs interrupt with questions about

whether the Prince is big, tall, strong, and handsome. Snow �hite responds that

there is nobody like him anywhere. She had seeri the Prince one time and the

only word he said was " wait." After the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella

must leave the ball everything reverts to its previous state. As Cinderel la sits

with the mice she recounts to them her evening with the Prince telling them "he

was so handsome" ( Cinderella 1950).

In Pocahontas (1995) Pocahontas takes John Smith to meet Grandmother

Willow (a tree). Upon this first meeting Grandmother Willow gives her ap·proval

by telling Pocahontas "he has a good soul and he's handsome too." In this same

film Nakoma tells Pocahontas she thinks Kocoum is handsome. In 101

Dalmatians (1961) Pongo is describing the bachelor life Roger leads and how he

needs a mate. Pongo describes Roger in the following manner. "As humans go

Roger was a rather handsome animal in his own way."

In some situations the male character is told directly he is handsome. In

Lady and the Tramp (1955) Peg walks up to Tramp and says "hi handsome" and

does so with a seductive voice. In The Aristocats (1970) Abigail and Amelia (the

geese) tell Duchess "your husband is very charming and handsome." At the end

of the movie Madame says, "Duchess, it's wonderful to have you all back." As

she combs O'Malley's hair she continues, "this young man is very handsome.

Shall we keep him in the family? Of course we will.,, In Aladdin (1992) Jasmine

is on her balcony as Aladdin is going to leave and she tells him "good night my

handsome prince."

The fact that a male character is handsome matters �ore to some female

characters than to others. In The Fox and the Hound (1981) Big Mama tells

Vixey she is looking for Tod who is new in the forest. Vixey acts coy and

responds "Oh, new? Ah, well, what does he look like?" Big Mama responds,

"Oh, he's young, about your age, and handsome." Vixey takes notice and replies

"Handsome? Oh, gee, ah, he sure sounds nice." In Beauty and the Beast ( 199 1)

Belle doesn't feel she fits in and there is no one to whom she can talk. Maurice

(her father) responds "How about that Gaston? He's a handsome fellow." · Belle

replies "he handsome all right, and rude and conceited... he's not for me. "

Two situations were noted in which some other descriptor rather than

handsome was used to describe the physical appearance of a male character.

Bambi was described as "cute" by all the animals that came to see him when he

was born. The second situation was in The Little Mermaid ( 1 989) when Ariel

saves Eric from drowning . After she has him to safety she notes, "he's breathing,

he's so beautiful. "

Rescues: Female Characters

Many of the major female characters are rescued in some way and some

more than once (Table 11 ). Snow White has to be saved three times, once by

the Huntsman who spared her life and told her to run; once when the dwarfs

came to save her from the Queen posing as a hag but they were too late; and a

third time when the Prince gives her love's first kiss to save her from eternal

sleep. Bambi saves Faline twice, once when wolves ar� chasing her and

another time during mating season when a stag is pushing her into the trees.



Snow White Pinocchio

Faline Bambi
Cinderella Mowgli
Wendy O'Malley
Lady T od
Duchess Eric
Ariel Beast
Jasmine Aladdin
Belle Simba
Nala John Smith
Bo Peep Geppetto
Tiger Lily Maurice
Tinkerbell Buzz
Perdita Woody

The mice rescue Cinderella when her stepmother locks her in the attic.

She is rescued again when the Prince marries her and saves her from a life of

servitude. Peter Pan rescues Wendy on three occasions. Twice he catches her

as she is falling; once when the lost boys shoot her down and again when

Captain Hook makes her walk the plank. Peter also has to get Wendy away from

the mermaids when they try to drown her. Peter Pan rescues Tiger Lily and

Tinkerbell from Captain Hook.

In Lady and the Tramp (1955) Lady is rescued by Tramp when dogs

chase her and get her cornered. Lady is rescued again when Tramp tricks the

beaver into getting the muzzle off her. In The Aristocats ( 1970) O'Malley comes

to the rescue to get Duchess and the kittens back home. During the trip O'Malley

rescues Marie when she falls in the river and again w�en she falls from the back

of a moving truck. Ariel is also rescued more than once. Eric rescues her when

Ursula takes her voice, gives her legs, and she washes ashore. King T ritor' tries

to rescue her when Ursula holds a pitchfork against her but U rsula turns him into

a creature. Aladdin must rescue Jasmine twice. The first time he comes to her

aid when she steals from a vendor in the marketplace and he convinces the

vendor she is crazy. Aladdin comes to the rescue again when Jasmine is going

to be forced to marry Jafar.

In Beauty and the Beast (1 991 ) the beast must rescue Belle when she

falls through the ice and the wolves are after her. In The Lion King (1 994)

Mufasa saves Nala and Simba from the hyenas but she would not have been in

the situation in the first place if it had not been for Simba. Simba comes to the

rescue of the female lionesses when he returns to the Pride Lands because Scar

is starving the animals to death. In Toy Story (1 995) Woody m ust save Bo

Peeps' sheep.

In 101 Dalmatians (1 96 1 ), Pongo and Perdita search for the kidnapped

puppies. Along the way Perdita states " Pongo, oh Pongo. I'm afraid we're lost.

Oh what will we do?" and "Oh Pongo, how will we get to the van? Pongo I 'm so

afraid. " It is questionable whether this is really a rescue situation but Perdita

presents herself as helpless and if it were not for Pongo the viewer doesn't know

if Perdita could get the puppies home on her own. There are no situations in

which female characters have to be rescued in Pinocchio (1.940); The Jungle

Book (1 967); The Fox and the Hound (1 98 1 ) or Pocahontas ( 1 995).


Rescues: Male Characters

There are five films in which males do not need to be rescued. The�e ·

include: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); Cinderella (1950); Peter Pan

(1953); Lady and the Tramp (1955); and 101 Dalmatians (1961). Male

characters did need to be rescued at some point in the remaining eleven films.

Some of the male characters need to be rescued more than once and some as

many as four times. Aladdin had to be rescued four times, which accounts for

the most rescues of one single male character. Three male characters, Mowg�i,

Maurice, and Tod, are rescued three times each. Pinocchio, Simba and Woody

are each rescued twice. The male characters who only need to be rescued once
I •
include Bambi, O'Malley, Eric, the beast, John Smith and Buzz �ightyear.

At times female characters are responsible for the rescues, in fact ten

times in seven of the films. The female characters who rescue male characters

are the Blue Fairy, Abigal and Amelia the geese in The Aristocats (1970), Mrs.

Tweed, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Pocahontas. Belle, in Beauty and the Beast

(1991) is responsible for rescuing her dad Maurice three times. The first time

she sacrifices herself to get Maurice freed by the beast. She rescues him again

so he won't freeze to death in the forest and again when Gaston is going to have

him hauled away to the asylum. Belle also rescues the beast by falling in love

with him, which results in his not having to live the remainder of his life as a

hideous looking monster. Pocahontas is another female ch�racter who is willing

to sacrifice herself to save a man. When John Smith is to be hanged, she throws

herself on him and states "if you kill him you will have to kil l me too" (Pocahontas


In The Little Mermaid ( 1989) Ariel saves Eric from drowning when he is

thrown under the water during a hurricane. O'Malley is also saved from the

water by the geese in The Aristocats (1970). It is questionable if it would have

been necessary had the geese not caused the situation to begin with when they

intentionally break the tree branch on which he is hanging. T h e remaining

rescue situations involving a female character as the rescuer include: the Blue

Fairy rescuing Pinocchio when Stromboli locks him in a cage; Mrs. Tweed saves

Tod from being shot by Slade twice in The Fox and the Hound ( 1981); and

Jasmine saves Aladdin from the guards by ordering them to release him.

Male characters are also responsible for rescuing other male characters.

Jiminy Cricket saves Pinocchio from being turned into a donkey, a stag saves

Bambi from the burning forest, Baloo and/or Bagheera save Mowg li from Ka the

snake, the mangy monkeys and the vultures, and Copper saves Tod twice when

Slade is going to shoot him. Abu saves Aladdin when he is caught stealing.

Aladdin is also saved by the Genie twice, once when he is going to drown and

the other time when he is in the cave. Simba is saved from the hyenas by

Mufasa and is taken in by Pumba and Timon when he is alone with nowhere to

go. In Toy Story (1995), Woody and the other toys rescue B uzz Lightyear when

he is strapped to Sid's rocket and about to be blown into sp� ce. Buzz Lightyear

returns the favor when Woody needs help getting out from under the toolbox and

when he needs help getting away from Sid's dog.

Emotional Characters

Females are traditionally stereotyped as emotional. Any emotion

expressed outwardly could technically be considered being emotional. For

example, if a person is angry and while experiencing this emotion yells or throws

something, they are showing emotions or being emotional. The traditional

stereotype of females as emotional relates more to crying and the idea that big

boys and men do not cry or they are sissies. The films studied provide numerous

instances of characters being emotional when crying is used as the indicator. In

fact, instances of crying are noted in fourteen of the sixteen fil ms analyzed. What

is interesting is that while thirteen females were coded as crying, so too were

nine male characters (Table 1 2). In some instances two or more female

characters cry in the same film. This is also true for the male characters.

Crying : Female Characters

I n two situations the female character is seen crying when she thinks the

person she loves is dying or dead. Jasmine cries when she thinks Aladdin is

dead thinking he was killed by the guards. Belle cries when she thinks the beast

is dying as a result of the attack by Gaston and hi� men.




Snow White Pinocchio

Cinderella Geppetto
Ariel Bambi
Belle Captain Hook
Jasmine Smee
Pocahontas Mowgli
Nakoma Baloo
Lady Simba
Tinkerbell Dwarfs
Cruella Deville
Mrs. Tweed

In Pocahontas (1995) Nakoma and Pocahontas both have a tear in their

eye when Pocahontas and John Smith say goodbye and he leaves. I n this case

the tears are over having to give up something, mainly letting a loved o n e go.

This same situation is played out in The Fox and the Hound ( 1981) when Mrs.

Tweed must release Tod into the wild. While she does this she reminisces about

how they came together and how she loves him but must let him go. I n 1 0 1

Dalmatians (1961) Nanny cries when the puppies are stolen. Perdita cries earlier

in the story when she thinks Cruella DeVille is going to get the p uppies. These

two characters both appear to be crying over a loss or the fear of a loss of loved


In The Little Mermaid (1989) Ariel cries when her-da� breaks a statue of

Eric and forbids her from going near the humans·. It is difficult to determin e

whether she is crying because she is angry, feels she has lost the one she loves

or whether it is self-pity. In Peter Pan (1953) Captain Hook bates Tinkerbell into

getting angry because Peter Pan brought Wendy to the island. Tinkerbell is

already jealous so Captain Hook proceeds to make her angry by going on about

Wendy coming between her and Pe_ter Pan. In Lady and the Tramp (1955) Lady

is jealous of the other female dogs that others have associated with Tramp.

Even though Lady is jealous and expresses this in her sarcastic tone, she has

also just been released from the dog pound. At this point it is unclear whether

she is crying because of the jealousy, embarrassment or self-pity.

Three other female characters, Snow White, Cinderel la, and Cruella

DeVille, appear to cry as a result of self-pity. It is possible there could be another

explanation or reason for the emotional outburst other than self-pity in each of

the following situations. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Snow

White falls to the ground crying after she runs through the forest. She is running

because the Huntsman tells her of the Queen's plan to have her killed and that

she better leave and never return. It is possible she is crying out of fear and not

actually feeling sorry for herself.

In Cinderella (1950) Cinderel la gets ready for the bal l with the help of the

mice and the birds. Her stepmother and stepsisters do not think she will be

attending so when she appears ready to go they rip her dress to shreds.

Cinderel la runs to the garden crying. Again, she could be c�ing because she is

angry but it also could be self-pity over the lost opportunity to meet the Prince. In

101 Dalmatians ( 196 1) Cruella DeVille drives off the road while in pursuit of the

puppies and ends up down below a bridge. She is obviously angry but whether

she is crying out of anger or because of self-pity over losing the puppies cannot

be determined.

Crying : Male Characters

As previously mentioned, there are instances when male characters also

cry. Five male characters cry because someone they love has died or they

believe has died. In The Lion King ( 1994) and Bambi ( 1942) Simba and Bambi

respectively, have lost a parent. Simba loses his father Mufasa and his uncle

Scar leads him to believe he is responsible for the death. Bambi cries when his

mother is shot.

In three films the male characters cry when they believe someone they

love is dead but as it turns out they are not. At the end of Pinocchio ( 1940)

Geppetto believes Pinocchio has drowned. In The Jungle Book ( 1967) Mowgli

and Bagheera think Baloo has been killed after his fight with Shere Khan.

Mowgli is crying while Bagheera is eulogizing Baloo. Baloo himself is so moved

by what Bagheera says about him that he also cries. In Snow White and the

Seven Dwarfs ( 1937) the dwarfs cry when they think Snow White is dead not

realizing she is only in eternal sleep and that it can be reversed with love's first


Two male characters shed tears when they are afraid. Captain Hook

cries when he thinks Peter Pan is going to feed him to the crocodile. Captain ·

Hook has good reason to be fearful as the crocodile ate his arm and that is the

reason he wears a hook. In Pinocchio ( 1940) Pinocchio cries when he is locked

in a cage by Stromboli. In both of t�ese situations the character gets themselves

into the situation that makes them fearful.

The last male character to cry is Smee in Peter Pan ( 1942). Captain Hook

is goading Tinkerbell about Wendy coming between her and Peter Pan. Whe�

Tinkerbell starts to cry so does Smee. It is possible Smee is a sentimental

person and feels sorry for Tinkerbell. The two films in which neither a male nor

female character cries are Toy Story ( 1995) and The Aristocats ( 1970).

Female Dependency on Males

Women are traditionally stereotyped as dependent on others to take care

of them. The idea that a woman needs a man to take care of her is evident in

some of the films studied. In The Little Mermaid ( 1989) King Triton tells

Sebastian that Ariel "needs someone to watch over her, to keep her out of

trouble. " In Aladdin ( 1992) the Sultan wants to make sure that Jasmine is "taken

care of, provided for." In Pocahontas ( 1995) Powhatan, her father, states, " She

needs a husband to be safe from harm. "

In Lady and the Tramp ( 1955) Boris and Bui� (two -dogs) are having a

conversation about Tramp. Boris is talking abouf Tramp "meeting someone


different. Some delicate, fragile creature who's giving him a wish to shelter and

protect." Bull responds with, " Like Miss Park Avenue" referring to Lady. Boris·

says, "could be." In The Aristocats (1970) Madame decides she and Duchess

should keep O'Malley in the family because they "need a man a round the house."

In the case of Jasmine and Pocahontas their fathers, the Sultan and

Powhatan respectively, have decided whom their daughters should marry.

Neither girl is interested in their fathers' choice for a husband. Not only do some

of the films indicate women need men to take care of them, there are also

indicators of what some of the men think a woman or wife should be or do. In

Beauty and the Beast (1991) Gaston pursues Belle for his wife. He makes a

statement about "my little wife massaging my feet while the little ones play on the

floor . . . we'II have six or seven. . . strapping boys like me."

In Aladdin (1992) Jafar is trying to force the issue that Jasmine must marry

him because a suitable suitor has not been found. Jasmine is shocked by this

idea. When Jafar sees her reaction he comments, "you're speechless I see, a

fine quality in a wife." In The Little Mermaid (1989) Ursula wants Ariel's voice.

Ursula tells her she will still have her looks and body language. Ursula leads

Ariel to believe that having a voice isn't that important anyway and tells her:

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber. They think a girl
who gossips is a bore. Yet on land it's much preferred for ladies
not to say a word u . They're not all that impressed with conversation.
True gentlemen avoid it when they can. They dote and swoon and
fawn on a lady who's withdrawn and she who holds h�r tongue
gets her man.

There are other situations that indicate the views men have of women.

These situations deal with what is appropriate behavior for women or what is

considered women's work. In Beauty and the Beast ( 199 1) Belle loves to read.

Gaston takes a book from Belle and says, "how can you read this, there's no

pictures. It's not right for a woman to read. As soon as she starts g etting ideas,

thinking ... " In The Aristocats ( 1970) O'Malley takes Duchess and the kittens to

his home. O'Malley realizes it is not what they are used to but Duchess is polite

and tells him, "all it needs is a little tidying up and . .. a little feminine touch."

In The Jungle Book ( 1967) Winfred tells her husband Colonel Harty he

needs to help find Mowgli. Winifred threatens to take over the herd and he

responds with "What? A female leading my herd, preposterous!" In The Lion

King ( 1994) Scar says, "It's the lionesses job to do the hunting." In Cinderella

( 1950) a female mouse tells a male mouse "leave the sewing to the women, you

go get some trimming. "

In The Lion King ( 1994) Timon and Pumba befriend Simba. When Nala

shows up and they watch the interaction between Simba and Nala, Timon

comments that if they "fall in love... our trio is two. His carefree days with us are

history, our pal is doomed. "

Brave ry and Strength: Male Characters

Men are traditionally stereotyped as brave, strong .and. agg ressive. The

physical actions of men serve as indicators of these character traits. In a


majority of the films studied male characters engage in fighting. In Bambi (1942)

a stag is trying to push Faline into the forest during mating season. S he is yelting

for Bambi so he fights the stag and the stag leaves. I n Peter Pan (1953) Peter

Pan engages in a sword fight with Captain Hook. I n Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady is on the streets alone and is out of her element. A pac k of dogs come after

Lady and have her backed into a corner. Tramp sees what is happening· and

fights the dogs until they leave.

In The Jungle Book (1967) Mowgli stands u p to Ka (the snake), Baloo (t.he

bear), and S here Khan (the tiger). Mowgli is not afraid of any of the animals,

especially S here Khan. He fights with S here Khan, hitting him with a clu b and

ties a burning stick to S here Khan's tail . In The Fox and the Hound (1981) Tod

fights a bear to protect Vixey. In The Little Mermaid (1989) Eric and King Triton

fight with Ursula u nder the sea. Ariel even got in on this fight and Ursula was

eventual ly killed by the bow of a ship. I n Beauty and the Beast (1991), Gaston

and his men go to the castle to kill the beast. The beast and Gaston fight.

Gaston falls from the top of the castle and it appears he dies.

In The Lion King (1994) Nala convinces S imba to return to the Pride

Lands. When he returns he confronts Scar about the death of Mufasa. Scar and

S imba get into a fight and S car falls over a cliff. I n Pocahontas (1995) the white

men and the Indians plan to fight each other. This includes both John S mith and

Kocoum. Kocoum gets shot and killed by Thomas but John .S mit h never actually

fights. S mith shows his bravery when he is going to be hanged . He tells


Pocahontas "I've gotten out of worse scrapes than this." In Toy Story (1995)

Buzz and Woody fight with each other but later become friends.

Male characters show their physical strength in ways other than fighting.

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) the Prince shows his strength when

he carries Snow White from the coffin and puts her on the horse. He also lifts the

dwarfs up to Snow White so she can kiss each one. In 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Pongo exhibits strength when he climbs into the back of a moving van. O'Malley

does almost the same type of action in The Aristocats (1970) when he jumps il'.lto

the back of a moving truck after saving Marie. In Toy Story (1995) Woody shows

physical strength by climbing up the side of the bed and Buzz shows it when he

chases the moving truck.

Bravery and Strength : Female Characters

Female characters demonstrate their courage in less physical ways. In

The Fox and the Hound (1981) Mrs. Tweed is not afraid of Slade and stands up

to him. Mrs. Tweed actually takes Slade's gun and shoots the radiator in his

truck. In The Lion King (1994) Nala leaves pride rock and goes out on her own

to find food. She attacks Timon and Pumba until she finds out they are friends of


In three situations daughters stand up to their fathers or oppose them

because of a man. In Aladdin (1992) Jasmine stands up to ihe Sultan when he is


trying to find a husband for her. The law says she must be married by her next

birthday, which is in three days. Jasmine tells her father:

The law is wrong. . . I hate being forced into this. If I d o marry

I want it to be for love . . . I 've never done anything on my own . . .
I 've never had any real friends.. . I 've never even been outside
the palace walls. . . maybe I don't want to be a princess anymore.

Jasmine eventually sneaks out of the palace and runs way. She then meets

Aladdin in the marketplace.

I n Pocahontas (1995) Powhatan wants Pocahontas to marry Kocoum.

Pocahontas wants no part of this. She tells her father "I think my dream is

pointing me down another path. " She also wants to be able to choose her own

husband. The matter is dropped at that point. Later in the story Pocahontas

stands up to her father again when they are going to hang J oh n Smith.

Pocahontas tells her father "if you kill him you will have to kill me too. " When

Powhatan orders her to stand back, she refuses because she loves him and tells

her father this. Her father relents and with his club raised above his head says:

"My daughter speaks with the wisdom beyond her years. We have all come here

with anger in our hearts. But she comes with courage and understanding. "

I n The Little Mermaid (1 989) Ariel swims above the water and her father

King Triton finds out about it. He yells at Ariel and refers to the humans as

barbarians and dangerous. Ariel stands up to her father telling him they are not

barbarians. She says to her father "I'm 1 6-years-rnd. I 'm n�t a child. . . " Her father

yells and orders her to stay away from the surface. In The Jungle Book (1967)

Winfred stands up to her husband Colonel Harty. She threatens to take over

command of the herd if he doesn't help find Mowgli.

I n Beauty and the Beast ( 1991) Belle stands up to Gaston. Gaston tells

Lefou that Maurice ( Belle's father) is a "crazy old loon." Belle hears this and tells

Gaston "don't talk about my father . that way. . . my father is not crazy, he's a

genius." Belle also stands up to Monsieur d'Arque (the head of the asylum)

when he tries to take her father. Belle tells him "my father's not crazy. . . I won't let

you. .. " Belle stands up to the beast when she refuses to come to dinner with him.

She tells him she is not hungry and says she will stay in the room forever.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( 1937) is the fi rst full-length animated

feature film by The Walt Disney Company. In this film Grumpy, one of the

dwarfs, makes known his view of women when he makes the following


She's a female and all females is poison. They're full of wicked

wiles. . . I'm warning you, you give them an inch and they'll walk
all over you.

Grumpy admits he doesn't know what wicked wiles are but he . is against them. It

becomes apparent that even though he can't explain to the other dwarfs what

wicked wiles are, he is able to recognize them. Snow White requires the dwarfs

to wash before eating and all of them but Grumpy ciecide to. do so to please her.

At this point Grumpy comments "hah, her wiles is beginning." Grumpy's

statements may have been a preview of what was to come in future films.·

It seems that "wicked wiles" are what women do to g et men to do what

they want. In other words, women flirt to get what they want and what they want

are men. Women engage in various behaviors that could be considered

flirtatious. The behaviors include acting coy, tilting the head, glancing away but

then returning the gaze, looking back over the shoulder while turned away from

the target of the flirting , batting one's eyelashes, and invading another

character's personal space with or without physical contact. In other words ·

flirtatious behaviors are romantic overtures.

Numerous characters flirt in the films studied. It appears this behavior is

unique to the female characters. In The Little Mermaid ( 1989) Ariel is given

instructions from Ursula and Sebastian on how to get a man. After Ursula tells

Ariel "don't ever underestimate the importance of body language," she shakes

her body to show Ariel how to do it. Because Ariel has to get Prince Eric to kiss

her in order to get her voice back Sebastian tells her "you've got to look your

best. You've got to bat your eyes, pucker up your lips."

In The Aristocats ( 1970), Madame and Duchess flirt with George

Hautecourt and O'Malley respectively. Madame prepares for George when she

looks in the mirror and says "we must both look our best for George." After

George arrives he kisses her hand and she giggles as she responds with "you're

a shameless flatter George". Duchess flirts with O'Malley by licking her paws,

primping her face, looking at him sideways with her head tilted, and batting her

lashes. Later when they are with the scat cats, she plays the harp and sings a

song about "if you want to turn me on."

In Bambi (1940), Thumper, Flower and Bambi are warned about "twitter

patting" and what will happen when they run into a pretty face. Immediately after

this warning a female skunk comes out of the grass and lays it on thick. She

giggles, tilts her head, waves, bats her eyelashes and kisses Flower. Next, a

female bunny is shown and Thumper stops in his tracks and watches as she

strokes her ears, waves her ear, bats her eyelashes, turns her tail toward him

and looks back over her shoulder at him, bats her eyelashes some more then

says "hello." Faline moves in toward Bambi and licks (kisses?) his face. In all

three instances the male characters, Thumper, Flower and Bambi, get dazed and

their eyes roll backwards. Flower turns red in the face and follows the female

skunk into the grass while giggling. After Thumper's eyes get dazed, he falls on

his face. In the case of Bambi, Faline funs off and he follows her as a song

about romance begins playing.

In The Fox and the Hound (1981) Vixey positions herself in just the right

way so when Tod sees her she is at an advantage. Vixey sits. with her back

toward Tod then coyly looks back over her shoulder. When Tod tries to tell Vixey

his name, his eyes get dazed and roll backwards. At this point Boomer makes a

comment that "it looks like the farm boy is making ft big with her." After awhile

Vixey makes the first physical move when she nuzzles her head under Tod's


In The Jungle Book (1967) the girl from the man vill age flirts with Mowgli

while she is fetching water. This girl strokes her hair, tilts her head and. looks

sideways. While Mowgli is watching her, he falls out of a tree and she giggles,

obviously aware he was watching her. As she walks away with the pot of water

on her head, she turns and looks back at Mowgli to make sure he is watching.

As she does this she lets the pot of water drop. Baloo and Bagheera are

watching this and Baloo remarks, "she did that on purpose. " Bagheera responds

"obviously". Mowgli fills the pot with water, offers it to her and as she walks away

looking at him, Mowgli gets a lovesick l ook on his face, smiles, and follows the

girl to the man village. It becomes obvious she wants a man (or in this case a

ten year-old boy) because as she collects water she sings about having a

husband and a daughter who will fetch the water.

In Lady and the Tramp (1 955) Lady and Peg both flip their ears (as if it

were hair) and strut. Peg also wiggles her butt as she talks about how bad she

has it for Tramp. After Tramp and Lady eat spaghetti, stroll around town in the

moonlight, and put their paw prints inside a heart on the sidewal k, Lady turns her

head and acts coy. In Toy Story (1995) Bo Peep flirts with Woody after he saves

her sheep. After she thanks him she raises her eyebrows and in a sultry,

seductive voice says, "what do you say I get someone else to watch the sheep

tonight?" Woody just laughs so Bo Peep says "remember I'm just a coupl e of

blocks away" and walks away swinging her hips. In Cinderella ( 195.0 )

Cinderella's two stepsisters very unsuccessfully try to flirt when they meet ttie

Prince. They are not at all good at flirting and the King is even disgusted by what

he sees.

There are instances of flirting where the female character being flirtatious

is not directing her actions toward the male character in whom she has a

romantic interest but toward another male character in order to get something

she wants. In Beauty and the Beast ( 199 1) Belle flirts with Cogsworth to get him

to take her to the part of the castle she has been ordered to stay away from; She

builds him up with flattery and tickles what would be his stomach had he not

been turned into a clock. Snow White does the same type of thing with the

dwarfs and kisses each one of them on the head when they leave for work.

Snow White also acts coy with the Prince when she runs from him at the

beginning of the story. She runs into her home but then looks at him from the

balcony then closes the drapes.

In Aladdin ( 1992) Jasmine flirts with Jafar to get Aladdin and herself away

from him. She tells Jafar "I never realized how incredibly handsome you

are... you're tall, dark, well dressed. . . you've stolen my heart." . She even g oes so

far as to kiss him.


Heterosexual Couplings

Romance, coupling or mating are the end result in almost all of the films

studied (Table 13). I n all cases the couples are heterosexual. In some films the

hero and heroine get married at the end of the story. In other cases the couple is

together but the viewer does not whether they marry. I n the stories where

the hero and the heroine are animal characters their coupling is indicated by the

presentation of offspring.



Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Prince · Snow White

Bambi Bambi F aline
Thumper F emale Rabbit
F lower F emale Skunk
Cinderella Prince Cinderella
Lady and the Tramp Tramp L ady
101 Dalmatians Pongo Perdita
The Jungle Book Mowgli Girl fetching water
The Aristocats O'Malley Duchess
The Fox and the Hound Tod Vixey
The Little Mermaid Eric Ariel
Beauty and the Beast Prince B elle
Aladdin Aladdin Jasmine
The Lion King Simba Nala
Pocahontas J ohn Smith Pocahontas
Toy Story Woody Bo Peep

Human Couples
I n seven of the sixteen films studied human characters are paired as

couples. Four of these couples get married at the end. of the film but in other

films it is only implied. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( 1937) Snow White

dreams of the day her Prince will come and they will "be happy forever." When

she tells the dwarfs a true story about love they continually interrupt with

questions about whether she is the princess and if the Prince said, "I love you"

and if he stole a kiss. Snow White responds to these questions with "he was so

romantic I could not resist." As Snow White cooks she sings of the Prince

coming, going to the castle and being happy forever, and how in spring she will

find love a new and wedding bells will ring. At the end of the film the words are

shown on the screen, "and they lived happily ever after."

In Cinderella ( 1950) the Prince approaches Cinderella at the ball and they

dance. They go out on a patio and continue dancing with no one else around. At

this point a song about "so this is love. .. this is the miracle I've been dreaming or

begins to play. Cinderella and the Prince start to kiss as the clock strikes

midnight. As Cinderella runs off the Prince yells, "wait, come back, please come

back. I don't even know your name." The next morning the King is ready to

make arrangements for the wedding and declares it a national holiday. The

Grand Duke informs the King that the girl got away but that the Prince

... loves her. He won't rest until he finds her. He's determined
to marry her... The Prince sire, swears he'll marry none but the
girl that fits this slipper.

After the Grand Duke and the King's messenger find Cinderella and the slipper

fits there are wedding bells. Cinderella is in a wedding -dress, and she and the

Prince get in a carriage. After they are shown kissing the words "arid they lived

happily ever after" appear on the screen.

In The Little Mermaid ( 1989) Ariel saves Eric from drowning. Ariel sings "I

know something's starting right now." Ursula is watching this and laughs as she

says, "I can't stand it. It's too easy. The child is in love with a human. And not

just any human, a Prince." King Triton notices Ariel has "been acting

peculiar . .. daydreaming [and] singing to herself. " Ariel finds the statue of Eric that

sank with the ship. She pretends he is asking her to run away with him. When

King Triton happens upon this scene and yells at Ariel about staying away from

humans she yells "daddy I love him."

When Ursula takes Ariel's voice she gives her three days to get the Prince

to fall in love with her and she will remain human. Ariel h�s to get Eric to kiss

her. It can't be "just any kiss" it has to be "the kiss of true love." Back at the

castle Eric informs Grimsby that, "I'm going to find that girl and I'm going to marry

her." At the end of the story King Triton realizes Ariel "really does love him" and

gives her legs. Eric walks toward her on the beach, kisses her, and wedding

bells sound. Eric and Ariel are married and sail off on a ship. They are shown

kissing at the end.

In Aladdin ( 1 992) J asmine tells her father she wants to marry for love.

After she meets Aladdin he realizes she has to marry a prince and he thinks of

himself as a fool for thinking about her. Aladdin is obviously interested in

Jasmine because when the old man confronts him in the dungeon Aladdin says,

"but the law says only a prince can . . . " After Aladdin meets the Genie and the

Genie asks him what he wants most Aladdin replies, "well there's this girL . . " The

Genie can't make anyone fall in love so Aladdin has the Genie turn him into a

prince so he will be in contention for Jasmine's hand in marriage. When Aladdin

meets the Sultan he convinces the Sultan to "just let her meet me. I will win your


After Jasmine figures out Aladdin is the boy she met in the marketplace

and cools down after being lied to, she puts her head on Aladdin's shoulder. . . He

takes her back to the castle and they say their goodnights. Before he leaves

they kiss. At the end of the story the Sultan declares that the Princess can marry

whom she wants. Jasmine wants Aladdin. In the last scene Jasmine and

Aladdin are shown in different clothing but it is difficult to tell if they are wedding

clothes. Aladdin is wearing a robe for royalty but Jasmine is not wearing a

traditional wedding dress. They kiss and fly off on the magic carpet.

In Beauty and the Beast (1991) Belle doesn't want to get to know the

beast. After he shows her the library she warms up to him. As the beast is

taking a bath to prepare for dinner Lumiere tells the beast that there will be music

and romantic candlelight. He tells the beast "when the moment is right you will

confess your love." After Belle and the beast eat they are outside under the stars

and the beast holds her hand. Belle admits she is happy there with him. The

beast allows Belle to go to her father and they return to· the. castle together when

Gaston and his men go after the beast.

1 00

After the fight Belle thinks the beast has died and she cries " please don't

leave me, I love you." The beast is transformed back into a Prince and after they

look into each other's eyes and touch each other's face, they kiss. Fireworks

then g o off, everything in the castle turns bright, and the appliances turn back

into people. It is not possible to tell if Belle and the Prince actually g et married

but he is in dress clothes and she is in a golden gown. Chip asks Mrs. Potts "are

they g oing to live happily ever after mama?" and she replies, "of course my dear,

of course." Belle and the Prince are dancing alone on a big ballroom floor and a

crowd encircles the dance floor. It is possible this was the dance at their

wedding but the viewer doesn't know for sure as Belle is not in a traditional

wedding dress.

In one of the films in this study the hero and heroine are not pictured in a

wedding scene but they appear to end up together. In The Jungle Book ( 1967)

Mowgli follows the girl to the man village. She had been singing of having a

husband and a daughter so one could assume that was why she showed an

interest in Mowgli by flirting with him. After Mowgli leaves Baloo says, "he's

hooked." Bagheera responds, "it was inevitable Baloo. The boy couldn't help

himself. It was bound to happen. Mowgli is where he belongs now."

In Pocahontas ( 1995) the hero and heroine do not end up together.

Although they are attracted to each other and have kissed a couple times, they

part ways in the end. John Smith was shot and the men need to get him back to

England. John Smith asks Pocahontas to come with them to England.


Powhatan tel ls Pocahontas she "must choose her own path." She decides her

people need her and she will stay. Smith then says, "I will stay with you."­

Pocahontas tells him he needs to go back. She tells him "no matter what

happens, I'll always be with you forever." At this point they kiss and the white

men leave on the boat.

Animal Couples

In the films where the hero and heroine are animals there is no marriage

to indicate they end up as a couple. In some of these films the coupling is

indicated by the fact that they have borne offspring. In Bambi (1 942) the animals

go to the thicket after Thumper and Flower make a commotion and wake up the

other animals. After the animals assemble the Owl says, "Well sir, I don't believe

I've ever seen a more likely looking pair of fawns. Prince Bambi ought to be

mighty proud." Flower and Thumper also have baby skunks and bunnies

respectively following them. One baby skunk does refer to Flower as "papa. "

In Lady and the Tramp (1 955) Lady and Tramp have obviously mated as

they have four puppies. One puppy looks like Tramp and the other three look

like Lady. Trusty and J ock come to visit and Trusty comments, "There's no doubt

about it, they've got their mother's eyes." Jock responds with "but there's a little

bit of their father in them too. "

At the end of The Lion King ( 1 994) Simba and Nal a are sitting together

and rub faces. Rafiki comes up to them and holds a baby l ion cub up in the air.
1 02

This and two situations earlier in the story lead the viewer to believe the cub

belongs to Simba and Nala, which would indicate they have coupled and . mated.

Earlier in the story Zazu informed Simba and Nala they are betrothed to each

other. Zazu has to explain that it means marriage and they have no choice

because "it's a tradition going back generations." When Timon and P umba

witness the interaction between Simba and Nala, Timon comments that he can

see what's happening and that "they don't have a clue. .. they'll fall in

love .. . disaster's in the air."

In The Aristocats (1 970) Duchess and O'Malley haven't actually had .

kittens by the end of the story but it is implied that they will in the future.

Madame has decided to keep O'Malley in the family to have a man in the house.

She instructs George (her lawyer who is writing her will) that he "must be sure to

provide for their future little ones." Earlier in the story O'Malley made reference

to the idea that the kittens "need a . . . well a sort of.. . well a father around. "

Duchess appears to take this as a proposal of sorts and replies, "Thomas that

would be wonderful. But darling, if only I could." O'Malley wants to know why

she can't and the reason is because she couldn't leave Madame. As they have

this conversation they are sitting next to each other with their tails entwined.

101 Dalmatians (1 961 ) is a little different than the other stories because

Pongo and Perdita meet and have their puppies early in the story. In The Fox

and the Hound ( 1 981 ) Tod and Vixey do not have� baby fo:x,es at the end of the

story. They still appear to be a couple as they are sitting on a hill next to each
1 03

other with their heads nuzzling against each other. At one point in the story

Vixey counts to seven when she sees seven baby ducks following their mother.

Vixey tells Tod "I think six would be just right." Tod asks " six what?" and Vixey

just giggles. She has obviously indicated an interest in having six offspring.

The three remaining movies, Pinocchio ( 1940), Peter Pan ( 1953), and Toy

Story (1995), do not end with the hero and heroine together although romance is

indicated in two of the stories. In Peter Pan ( 1953) Peter Pan does not end up

with a female but Tinkerbell must have some romantic interest in Peter Pan or

she would n ot have been so jealous of Wendy.

In Toy Story ( 1995) Bo Peep shows interest in Woody and has tired to get

together with him. Woody does n ot appear to have much interest but may have

warmed up to the idea at the end of the story. Bo Peep grabs Woody by the

neck with her hook. Woody says, "there's got to be a less painful way to get my

attention." Bo Peep seductively wishes Woody a Merry Christmas while she

holds mistletoe. When Woody asks, "isn't that mistletoe?" B o Peep responds

"unh huh" then there are giggles and kissing sounds. What actually happens is

not seen by the viewer and is left for the viewer to decide.

Pinocchio (1940) seems to be the one exception to the _ theme of romance

or coupling . There does not appear to be romantic interests for any of the

characters in this story. At the end of the film Figaro (the cat) does kiss Cleo (the

fish) but this doesn't appear to be a romantic interrude. -

1 04

Changes in the Portrayal of Gender Since Walt Disney's Death

The presentation of male and female characters along with the portrayal of

gender roles does not appear to have greatly changed since the death of Walt

Disney (Table 14).


Films Before Films After
Theme Disney's Death Disney's Death

Ratio of males to females 2: 1 3: 1

In-Home Labor
Males 2 3
Females 10 10
Out-of-Home Employment
Males 13 13
Females 2 2
Societal Power
Males 16 14
Females 2 3
Familial Power
Males 2 4
Females 4 0
Males 8 1
Females 7 6
Males 4 10
Females 7 7
Males 6 8
Females 1 6

The gap between the number of male and female ch� racters narrowed in

some of the more recent films but also widen in others. One notable change was
1 05

that there are more human or human-like characters. The physical appearance

of these characters has not changed. The heroes and heroines are still young,

thin and attractive whereas the supporting characters are not.

The portrayal of in-home labor has changed most notably by the lack of

characters portrayed as performing home-related chores. In the older films

female characters were portrayed as performing many more home-related

chores than male characters. No notable changes were observed in the

portrayal of women holding jobs or societal power. A decrease in the portrayal of

maternal characters was noted, as was an increase in the portrayal of paternal


Changes were noted in the number of male characters portrayed as

emotional (crying) but not for female characters. In the films since Walt's death

only one male character was portrayed as emotional whereas the number of

female characters portrayed as emotional remained about the same. The

portrayal of male characters needing to be rescued increased in the recent films

but remained the same for the female characters.

Female characters became more independent since Walt Disney's

passing yet there was an increase in the references to these female characters

needing a male to take care of them. In essence, these characters became more

independent but were treated as dependent by the male characters. The final

area where no change was noted is the coupling of the hero and heroine and the

fairy tale ending of "happily ever after. "



Discussion and Conclusions


The gender stereotypes dep_icted in other forms of mass media and

literature are also present in the Disney films studied here. There are some

situations where females defy these stereotypes but in most cases they are the

exception. The gender imbalances that remain very evident in the films studied

are found in the ratio of male to female characters, in-home labor, out of home

employment and societal power. Changes in the presentation of female and

male characters were found in some character traits especially in the more

recent films.

This chapter will discuss how the findings in Chapter 5 support or fail to

support the five guiding hypotheses outlined in Chapter 4. Emergent themes

discovered during the research process will also be discussed. After revisiting

the social construction of gender roles this chapter will conclude with a

discussion of the limitations of the present research and suggestions for future


Male to Female Ratio

Even though strides have been made to equ-al the gap between the

number of male and female characters in differe nt forms of media, gaps still
1 07

exist. The ratio of male to female characters in the Disney films studied, reflect

the research cited in the literature review. The findings presented in Table 2 ·

support the first hypothesis that the male characters in the Disney films will

outnumber the female characters. The gap between male and female

characters in the Disney films in this study still remains high in the recent films.

The findings revealed that two of the five films produced in the 1990s still have a

ratio of more than 2 to 1. The highest ratio of male to female characters is 12 to

1 in Aladdin (1992). Males outnumber females whether the characters are

human/human like or animal/object. Males also outnumber females as narrators

in these films.

The number of characters presented as human or mostly human

(mermaids) and as animals or objects are almost equal; 51% human or human

like characters compared to 49% animal characters or objects. These results are

similar to what Hoerner found in her study of eleven Disney films. Hoerner

(1996) found that animals accounted for almost half (46%) of the Disney

characters. Hoerner differed in her coding as she divided humans and fantasy

characters such as Ursula who morphs into several different forms i.e. , octopus,

teenager, and devil. Hoerner coded 38% of Disney characters as humans and

16% as fantasy characters.

The number of male and female characters does not represent reality

where the percentage of males and females is almost equal .. Male characters

have more prominence than female characters in· the Disney films studied . The
1 08

"wonderful world of Disney" remains a man's world. As a result of fewer female

characters girls are provided with fewer role models.

Categories of Female C haracters

Five categories of fen,ale characters emerged d uring data analysis.

These five categories are based on physical appearance and the role portrayed

in the story. The five categories include: heroines, young attractive females who

play a supporting role to the heroine, young unattractive females; matro nly older

women; and unattractive older females. Physical traits of characters in the

Disney films studied follow what has already been found in other venues, the

characters with good, positive and socially acceptable attributes are attractive.

The heroines are young and attractive. These characters are thin, most have

developed breasts, a narrow waist and defined hips giving them an hourglass

figure. These characters also have proportionate facial features and are soft

spoken. The young and attractive supporting female characters posses the

same physical traits as the heroines.

Young and unattractive female characters are presented with the same

physical traits as the unattractive older women. N ot only are t_hese characters

unattractive, they are loud, rude and abrasive. They may be fat or thin, b ut they

have exaggerated features whether they are on the face or body. Dark colors

are used on the faces of these women and they are sporting unattractive
1 09

hairstyles. These women also possess unattractive character traits as they are

mean spirited (the stepsisters) or play the role of villain.

The p roblem remains that these other categories such as the matronly

older women do not play major roles in these stories. This is most likely related

to the issue of what people will buy and profit margins. Most people don't want

constant reminders of what it means to grow ·o ld. The fact is everyone is going to

grow older and it doesn't necessarily have to be portrayed as an unpleasant

experience. As the baby boom generation continues to age, there will be a larger

p ro portion of older people in society. Children should be presented with positive,

strong, independent older characters, especially female characters.

Categories of Male Characters

Six categories of male characters emerged also based on p hysical

appearance and the role they play in the story. These six categories include:

heroes, young supporting males, boys/children, fathers, older male assistants,

and older male villains.

The heroes correspond to the heroines in that they are physically

attractive and good. These male characters are young, tall, strong and muscular.

Most of these characters have broad shoulders and none of them wear facial hair

such as a beard or mustache. The facial features of these characters are

proportionate, all of them have hair, and their eyebrows ar� well groomed, not

bushy . or wild as some of the male characters in · the other categories. These
1 10

men have strong jaw lines and chiseled faces. Just as the heroines, the heroes

do not have dark colors on their face, especially around the eyes.

The physical appearance of the characters in the category of boys is not

described in the same way as the other characters because they are children. It

does not seem appropriate to describe the physical appearance of children in the

same way as one describes the older characters whether they are older

teenagers or adults. This may be due to the sexual meaning attached to the

body as it matures. For the most part, these characters are portrayed as children

age four to ten with proportionate body and facial features.

The remaining three categories of male characters (fathers, older male

assistants and older male villains) are very similar in their physical appearance.

There is no single descriptor that covers the appearance of all these male

characters. The physical traits of these characters are exaggerated in some

way. These men may appear as short and fat, tall and fat, or tall and lanky.

Some of these characters have facial hair such as a beard, mustache or bushy

eyebrows. They also have exaggerated facial features, oversized and

disproportionate to the face or head size. These features may include their eyes,

nose, mouth, ears and double chins. Gaston in Beauty and the Beast ( 1991) is

one character that proves to be a major deviation from the physical appearance

of the rest of these characters. He is the villain in the story but fits the physical

appearance descriptors of the heroes.


One difference between the categories of male and female characters

becomes apparent. The female characters who portray the stepmothers of the

heroines are the villains whereas the male characters categorized as fathers are

a separate category from the villains. The father characters do not try to cause

intentional harm to their child. This may be due to the fact that the female villains

who try to harm their child are portrayed as the stereotypical "evil" stepmother

and thus may not have the maternal instinct or bond to the non-biological child.

In-Home Labor

In-home labor has traditionally been stereotyped as women's work. The

Disney films in this study follow these same stereotyped ways of presentation.

The findings presented in tables 5 and 6 support the second hypothesis that

the female characters in the Disney films will be observed participating in

more typical stereotyped female activities in the home than will male

characters. The types of household chores portrayed by female characters in

these Disney films outnumber those portrayed by male characters 6 to 1. The

findings show that more female characters in the Disney films studied performed

a wider variety of home-related chores than did the male characters. Twenty

different female characters performed in-home labor compared to only five male

characters. Overall female characters performed twenty-four different types of

chores whereas male characters performed only four different types of chores.
1 12

These twenty female characters performed a total of thirty-nine chores compared

to the four male characters performing a total of six home-related chores . .

Cinderella and Snow White both perform a wide variety of home-related

chores. In fact, they both provide the entire upkeep of the homes in which they

live and do so without complaint. Snow White also performs the same chores

when she lives with the dwarfs as a trade-off for a place to stay. The most recent

films from the 1990s overall depict very little in-home labor whether for females

or males. In fact, it is almost non-existent in these films.

Signorielli and Lears ( 1992) found that children's stereotyped attitudes

toward chores are positively related to television. The more television children

watch, the more likely they are to classify chores based on sex. O'Bryant and

Corder-Bolz ( 1978) found that children classify roles as being for males or

females more when they have seen those roles portrayed on television. Based

on these results it could be expected children who watch these Disney videos

over and over again would tend to do the same thing.

Even though there is much less in-home labor portrayed in the more

recent films there should still be concerns about the message presented to

children. Because these films are considered timeless masterpieces and are re­

released for each generation, young children may not be aware some of these

films date back more than sixty years. As a result the viewers of these films only

see in-home labor mainly performed by female characters. .

1 13

Out-of-Home Employment

The third hypothesis that the female characters in the Disney films

will not be portrayed in outside-the-home employment is supported by the

findings presented in Table 7. The findings show the range of occupations

depicted in the films in this study i� much wider for the male characters. Twenty-
. '

six male characters were depicted as holding titles of employment while

occupations were depicted for only four female characters. Most of the

occupations mentioned, shown or depicted by title do not give boys or girls much

to which they can aspire. If one considers those occupations also depicted .as

possessing societal power, there are still not many occupations for female

characters. According to Signorielli ( 1997: 1) "adolescent girls form ideas about

their own lives by observing how girls and women in the media look and behave,

their motivations and their goals, what they do with their time and their lives."

The Disney films in this study do not provide many examples of what options are

available to women outside of marriage and motherhood. In fact, the portrayal of

women in positions outside the home, are almost non-existent. What girls are

left with is the dream of romance and marriage.

The roles of Queen and fairy are not occupations to which g irls can

actually aspire. The other options based on these films are actress, sheep

tender, thief, wife and mother. Girls could aspire to be a princess, but the odds

of it actually happening in real life are about zero, -especially in this country. As

Hillman ( 1976:4) states "the limited range of occupational roles for women
1 14

presents a restrictive, servile view of adulthood to many children ... authors are

not portraying many females in exciting, prestigious, well-paying jobs. If .

children's literature is a force in the socialization of youth, this narrow view could

severely limit children's aspirations." In these films no women worked for pay.

This may be related to the time period in which the stories are set. In feudal

societies there is little wage labor. Even so, there is the issue of whether children

would actually make this distinction.

The above statement by Hillman ( 1976) is also true of the occupations.

presented for men in these stories. Seventeen characters are depicted as

royalty such as Kings and Princes, or else men who work for r oyalty. Since

positions of royalty are based on birthrights, they do not provide realistic

examples of men holding occupations in this country.

Realistic representations are presented for male characters with much

more variety. While there are occupations for males that could be considered

prestigious or well paying such as doctor or lawyer, they account for a small

proportion of the occupations represented. Other occupations depicted by title

hold status by the nature of the title such as Governor or sheriff. There are also

occupations that can be considered low status or blue collar including pizza

delivery person and dogcatcher. Not all of the occupations portrayed in these

films are portrayed in a positive manner as the villains hold some of these

1 15

Societal Power

Societal power is another area where male characters outnumber female

characters by 5 to 1 . The findings presented in table 8 provide support for the

fourth hypothesis that male characters in the Disney films would be

portrayed as holding societal p�wer and the female characters would not.

The findings reveal thirty male characters in .the Disney films studied hold titles

indicating societal power whereas only five female characters held titles

indicating the same. Most of the characters with societal power have that status

or authority based on a title of royalty such as King, Prince, and Princess. This is

true for male and female characters. If only the characters without titles of

royalty or royal position are considered, male characters with societal power,

status or authority still outnumber female characters by 3 to 1 .

In a majority of these films men have status, prestige, and one assumes

wealth, due to their position. Most of the female characters in these stories get

their sense of identity from men as they dream of the man they will marry. Fairy

tales then "are not just entertaining fantasies, but powerful transmitters of

romantic myths which encourage women to internalize only aspirations deemed

appropriate to our 'real' sexual functions within a patriarchy" (Rowe 1 989:21 1 ) .

Familial Power

Familial power is not evident in all the films- in this study and not all

parental figures portrayed exercise familial power. The number of male and
1 16

female characters exercising this power or authority is about equal. · Fathers

were portrayed as exercising power over their children most of whom were

daughters. The fathers who exercised familial power over their daughters

include Powhatan in Pocahontas ( 1995), King Triton in The Little Mermaid

(1989) , the Sultan in Aladdin ( 1992) and George Darling in Peter Pan ( 1953).

Female characters were portrayed exercising their familial power as wife or

mother. These characters include the Queen/stepmother in Snow White and the

Seven Dwarfs ( 1937), the stepmother in Cinderella ( 1950), Thumper's mother in

Bambi ( 1940), and Winifred the mother elephant in The Jungle Book ( 1967).

What is interesting is that in the case of the mothers with familial power, there is

no male parent in the story. In the case of the male parents with familial power

mothers are not present.

Many of the heroes and heroines in these stories have only one parent

and in some situations they are orphans. Many of the characters do not have

what is considered the "traditional" family, two parents and their offspring. This

observation is interesting because one could point to the culture at the time the

earlier movies were made to maintain that the gender stereotypes in some fairy

tales represent the culture at that time. Yet, the older Disneyf ilms do not

represent the traditional family of that time. The more recent films, with their lack

of maternal characters are no better. The lack of mother figures in these films

indicates patriarchal fathers are still dominant and the norm. These fathers are

very dominant over their children to the point they want to decide who their
1 17

children will or won't marry as was the case with Jasmine, Pocahontas, Ariel and

Belle. The lack of mother characters provides an explanation for the equality

between male and female characters portrayal of familial power.

Villain Character Traits

The characters portraying villains in the films studied are similar· in almost

all their personal character traits. Mainly, they have no character. All sixteen of

these characters display aggressiveness at some point in the story. This

aggressiveness is portrayed by fighting or acting in a hostile manner such as

yelling or throwing something. Some of the male villains who displayed

aggressive behaviors include Jafar (Aladdin 1992), who orders the guards to kill

Aladdin, Captain Hook who fights with Peter Pan (Peter Pan 1953), Stromboli

(Pinocchio 1940) who sells boys and locks them in cages, and Governor Ratcliff

who fights the Indians in Pocahontas ( 1995). The female villains also displayed

aggressive behaviors. The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

tries to have Snow White killed, the stepmother in Cinderella ( 1950) trips the

King's assistant so the glass slipper breaks, Aunt Sarah hits Tramp in Lady and

the Tramp ( 1955) and Ursula fights King Triton, Eric and Ariel in The Little

Mermaid ( 1989).

Most of the villains are unemotional. Captain Hook in Peter Pan ( 1953) is

the only male villain who cries whereas Cruella DeVille· in 1 0 1 Dalma tians ( 196 1)

is the only female villain who cries.

1 18

The majority of the villains are dominant. These characters are

controlling , bossy and give orders to others. In a study of five Disney films ·

Henke, Umble and Smith ( 1996:244) describe the female villains as "magnificent

in their strength, presence and rage. Usually they loom large and dark on the

screen as they trick, manipulate, and threaten. They control others' options and

access to money, shelter and relationships." The findings in table 4 in.dicate

almost all these villains have a sidekick or assistant. These characters help the

villains do their dirty work. The fact that they need these assistants indicateS.

they are not independent in the sense they are self-reliant. Yet, these characters

are independent in the sense that they make their own decisions about how to be

devious and then order others to carry out the deed.

None of the villains, whether male or female, express romantic interest.

One situation arose that expresses sexual interest but not romance. In Bambi

( 1940) a stag is trying to push Faline into the woods during mating season.

Faline doesn't want to go and yells for Bambi to help. This scene is somewhat

disturbing because it depicts the attempt of one character to force sex on another

character who doesn't want it.

Male Hero and Female Heroine Character Traits

The last hypothesis that male characters in the Disney films will be

portrayed with traditional masculine traits and�the fem,1e c haracters will be

portrayed with traditional female traits is only partially supported by the

1 19

research findings. The data supports this but with three exceptions.

Surprisingly, male characters in the more recent films are portrayed as

dependent. Also, almost all the male heroes are portrayed as romantic. In the

more recent films the female heroines are portrayed as more independent yet

they are still portrayed as dependent. Females are still portrayed as emotional,

passive and romantic and males are still portrayed as aggressive and


Emotional versus Unemotional

Most of the male hero characters are portrayed as unemotional. The

findings in table 12 indicate only four male heroes (Pinocchio, Bambi, Mowgli and

Simba) shed tears in the films studied. All four of these characters, whether

human or animal, are children. The main reason they cry is because someone

has died or they believe they are dead.

The findings in table 12 also indicate twice as many female heroines are

portrayed as emotional. Two of these heroines (Belle and Jasmine) cry because

someone has died or they think has died. As with the male characters that cry as

a result of death or believed death, it is appropriate to express this. emotion in this

situation. It is more difficult to determine the reason the remaining female

characters cry because the internal emotion accompanying the external act of

crying must be assumed. The action that triggers the emotion is what has to be
considered. It is possible the remaining female _heroines who cry do so because

they are angry, sad or fe�ling sorry for themselves. Snow White cries when she
1 20

finds out the Queen tried to have her killed, Cinderella cried when her dress was

torn to shreds by her stepsisters, Ariel cries when her father orders her to stay

a w ay from Eric a nd Poca honta s cries when John Smith lea ves. The point is tha t

female characters are portrayed as more emotional than m a le characters and cry

for a wider va riety of rea sons. It not necessarily the f act that a char acter cries

that m a kes them emotion a l but has more to do with the rea son.

Passive versus Aggressive

Most of the ma le hero characters a re aggressive. Some of these ma le

cha racters act a ggressively tow ard the vill a in to s ave the heroine. Ba mbi had to

fight a stag to save F aline (Bambi 1942) , Peter Pa n fights Capta in Hook (Peter

Pan 1953) , and Tra mp fights a pack of dogs to sa ve L ady (Lady and the Tramp

1955). Mowgli puts fire on Shere Kha n's tail ( The Jungle Book 1967) a nd Tod

fights a be a r to sa ve Vixey ( The Fox and the Hound 1981). Hoerner ( 1996:225)

found tha t the heroes resort "to physica l violence to triumph over the villain and is

rewa rded for his deeds." In some situa tions the hero ends up a s the responsible

party for the death of the villa in. Others a ct aggressively to save themselves.

Eric is p a rtia lly responsible for killing Ursula ( The Little Mermaid 1989) , Simba is

pa rtia lly responsible for killing Scar ( The Lion King 1994), and the bea st is

pa rtia lly responsible for the dea th of Ga ston (Beauty and the B east 1991 ).

Only two fema le heroines were coded as physically .aggressive. Ariel

helped fight Ursua l ( The Little Mermaid 1989) and N a l a fights with Pumba a nd

Timon before she discovers they are Simba's friends ( The Lion King 1 994). This

is also consistent with Hoerner's research ( 1 996:223) , in which she found "male

heroes displayed significantly more aggressive behaviors than did female

heroes." Female characters are presented as passive but this only appears to be

true for the female heroines in the early films. The female characters in the

earlier films are inactive in decision-making ·and unconditionally did what others

asked or ordered them to do. This was especially true of Cinderella and Snow

White who passively did what others, particularly their stepmothers, ordered.

them to do. These characters are portrayed as compliant without objection. The

one exception is the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio ( 1 940).

Dependent versus Independent

One character trait stands out as present in the eight most recent films

that is not present in the earliest eight films produced. The findings in table

1 1 indicate the male heroes in all eight of the recent films are portrayed as

dependent because they have to be rescued. Eric was rescued from drowning

( The Little Mermaid 1 989) , the beast was rescued from living his life as a hideous

beast (Beauty and the Beast 1 991 ), Simba was rescued from the hyenas ( The

Lion King 1 994), and Aladdin is rescued when Jafar was going to have him killed

(Aladdin 1 992). John Smith was rescued from being hanged ( Pocahontas 1 995,

Tod was rescued from being shot ( The Fox and the Hound. 1 98 1 ), and Woody

was rescued from an attack by Sid's dog ( Toy Story 1 995).


This suggests that the traits portrayed by the male Disney characters have

changed over time. This also indicates that while these characters are portrayed

as independent, these traits do not need to be presented as either/or traits but

are dependent upon the situation in which the characters finds themselves. This

is not true for all heroes in the earlier films. In some cases the hero has to be

rescued more than once.

The findings in table 11 also indicate almost all of the female heroines

need to be rescued at some point. Twelve of the sixteen female heroines

needed help from another character at some point. These characters include:

Snow White, Faline, Cinderella, Wendy, Lady, Duchess, Ariel, Jasmine, Belle,

Nala, Bo Peep, and Perdita. This makes them dependent on others, yet some of

them also exercise independence. This independent attitude also results in their

not being portrayed as passive. This is not true of the female heroine in seven of

the eight early films.

In the more recent films, those who produce the Disney films not only

portray the male hero as more dependent but also portray the female heroine as

more independent. Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Pocahontas stan d up for

themselves against men. These female characters want no part of the male

character their father wants them to marry. Belle also refuses the beast's order

that she join him for dinner. Ariel stands up to her father while defending Eric.

Even though she is ordered to stay away from him she - still. took a chance to

stand her ground. Hoerner ( 1996:223) found the same thing in her observations
1 23

noting that "Ariel talked back to her father, and Belle made retorts to the Beast

during her forced confinement in his castle." Nala stands up to Simba and

ventures out on her own to find food. Vixey stands up for herself when Tod calls

her an "empty-headed female". The Walt Disney Company is making positive

changes to portray the male hero _and female heroine on more equal terms. This

corresponds to Hoerner's ( 1 996:224-5) observations. She describes Ariel, Belle

and Nala as independent and strong. Hoerner states that they are characters

with "problem-solving abilities and actions on a more equal footing with their male


Romantic versus Unromantic

Two character traits stand out as being common to the majority of female

heroine characters. A majority of the heroines flirt and show a romantic interest

in the male hero. These female heroines express romantic interest in a male

character as evidenced by the outward flirting and the heterosexual couplings.·

The heterosexual coupling is portrayed through physical touching, kissing,

marriage, and offspring. The findings in table 1 3 indicate the hero and heroine

end up together as a couple at some point in the story.

The female characters are the aggressor in these relationships as they are

the ones who flirt. This flirting is evident in the physical actions of the female

characters. These girls appear to have all the moves sucti as tilting the head,

batting the eyelashes, stroking their hair (or ears in the case of animals) and
1 24

acting coy. These female characters put themselves out there indicating to the

male characters they are available and willing. This goes against what g_irls are

taught; males are to be the pursuer. Girls wouldn't need a turn-around or Saddie

Hawkins dance to make it socially acceptable for them to p ursue boys if this were

not the case.

Romance is the major common theme in almost all the films in this study.

This is true for the male and female characters although the female characters

are the ones who pursue the male characters. What stands out most in this

theme of romance is how the female and male character meet and fall in love.

Lieberman ( 1 989) addressed the issue of courtship and marriage in fairy tales.

She refers to marriage as the "fulcrum" of most fairy tales and describes being

beautiful and chosen as the reward system in these stories.

The romantic interest expressed by both male and female characters

happens almost instantly. I n one situation the male and female character kiss

before they even know each other's name. In Cinderella ( 1 950) the Prince and

Cinderella are kissing when the clock strikes midnight. Cinderella comments she

didn't meet the Prince and as she runs away the Prince tries to stop her saying

he doesn't even know her name. This immediate romantic interest is not unique

to this film. Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White and the girl from the man village are in

love or in lust after meeting their mate one time. The comments made by these

characters indicate the male's physical appearance i.mportant q uality in a

person to fall in love with them. Snow White ran away from the Prince the first
1 25

time he approached her yet she tells the dwarfs he was so romantic and she

sings of marrying him. Ariel rescues Eric then tells her father she loves him: She

does not know his name or who he is.

Male characters also express this same love interest almost immediately.

I n Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) the Prince has spoken one word to

Snow White before he kisses her and takes her away to live happily ever after.

· In Bambi (1942) not only does Bambi fall in love with Faline, Thumper and

Flower follow the female skunk and rabbit respectively, after the first meeting.

Eric is determined to marry the girl with the beautiful voice and he not only .

doesn't know her name, he doesn't know what she looks like.

The beast is in love with Belle and she with him after a day or two in the

castle. Belle doesn't know his name or that he is a prince. Aladdin and Jasmine

are in love after spending one day together in the market place and running

around town. Tod is so taken with Vixey upon their first meeting that he stutters

when he tries to speak. Mowgli exhibits how taken he is with the girl from the

man village when he falls from the tree and his eyes get dazed.

It becomes apparent that Disney presents distorted images of love. Love

is shown to happen at first sight. The male and female characters in these films

base life decisions on superficial qualities such as looks or the sound of a voice.

Female viewers are presented with the idea that looks are what count and that a

pretty face is all that is necessary to get a husband. If-girl� are getting these
1 26

messages and are led to believe only pretty girls get husban ds than the reverse

may be true. If one is unattractive don't count on marriage.

The characters never really get to know each other, have no idea about

the other characters' personality traits, or their history. This goes against what

parents try to teach their children, that getting to know a person is important in a

relationship. Society is skeptical of whirlwind romances, instead stressing getting

to know someone before making major decisions. Girls equate sex with love so

if a male is attractive, she is in love, and it is okay to let the relationship go ..

further. It may be a stretch but in modern times is it any wonder boys and girls

see an attractive person, think they're in love and end up with multiple sex

Another issue involved with the heterosexual couplings in these f lms is

the age of those involved. The female characters in these films mostly a ppear as

teenagers. The girl from the man village in The Jungle Book ( 1967) is

prepubescent. The male characters on the other hand, appear to be older.

These portrayals present the message that women (or girls in this case) marrying

older men is socially acceptable. This has been a traditional view in this society

while the opposite, older women marrying younger men, has not. Contemporary

women are not socialized to marry as teenagers. I n fact, it is frowned u pon.

Granted these stories are fairy tales and people should be able to

fantasize about the romantic aspects, but marriage is a re�lity for many people

and it does not live up to the fantasy presented· in these Disney films. These
1 27

stories show nothing of what happens after the marriage ceremony. The

audience never knows if the female characters marry into a life of servitude as

wife and mother or if the rest of their lives live up to the fantasy. Rowe

(1989:217) addresses what the female character gains from marriage when she

states that "because the heroine adopts conventional female virtues, that is

patience, sacrifice, and dependency, and because she submits to patrfarchal

needs, she consequently receives both the prince and a guarantee of social

security through marriage."

A problem with the way marriage is portrayed in these fairy tales is that

the story ends after the marriage and the audience is led to believe they live

happily ever after. The problem is this is not realistic . . Liberman (1989: 199)

states that the "focus upon courtship, which is magnified into the most important

and exciting party of a girl's life, brief though courtship is, because it is the part of

her life in which she most counts as a person herself . . . when fairy tales show

courtship as exciting and conclude with marriage. . . children may develop a deep­

seated desire to be courted since marriage is literally the end of the story."

These fairy tales present the dream of, or belief in, the "happily ever after" but

with a divorce rate in this country of about fifty percent, the "happily ever after"

does not exist for half the people who marry.


Revisiting the Social Construction of Gender Roles

The social constructionist approach is concerned with the process. ofhow

reality is constructed. The focus is on the interplay of individual actors creating a

subjective meaning from the patterned interactions or objective reality. The

social construction is a four-phase process that includes externalization,

objectivation, internalization and renovation. Objectivation is "the process by

which aspects of the social world become "real" to people . . . [and] the firmly

established patterns of social life that are accepted as social facts" ( Kanagy _�nd

Kraybill 1999:20). Language allows for the transmission of o bjectivations and

provides meaning for those who receive them.

The construction of gender roles emerged throughout the course of

history. Along with the construction of gender roles also came stereotypes of

what it means to be male or female and masculine or feminine. Over time these

roles and stereotypes were objectified and became accepted as social facts.

The acceptance of these roles and stereotypes only serves to reinforce and

perpetuate them. Popular culture and more specifically the Disney films are one

venue that serves as the social apparatus to transmit these objectivated gender

roles and stereotypes.

The Walt Disney Company is not much different than other media sources

in the presentation of the typifications and objectivations of what it means to be

male or female. Traditional masculine and feminrne chara.cter traits along with

stereotyped gender roles have become instituUonalized and comprise a large

1 29

portion of the "knowledge" presented in the Disney films. The analysis of the

films in this study indicates The Walt Disney Company continues to produce and

reproduce patriarchal views of gender roles. Even though some female

characters are portrayed in these films as independent, the predominant view is

that females still need males to take care of them.

These films are marketed to children who are the intended receivers of the

"knowledge" presented in the stories. According to Berger and Luckmann

(1966:70) "institutional meanings tend to become simplified in the process of

transmission, so that the given collection of institutional 'formulae' can be readily

learned and memorized by successive generations."

The patriarchal representations apparent in the Disney films really comes

as no surprise considering Walt Disney held very patriarchal views of women and

family. The subjective beliefs Walt Disney developed about the roles of males

and females in society became objectivated social facts in the films he produced.

As objectivations are transmitted to new generations, they must be legitimated or

explained and justified. Berger and Luckmann (1966:92) describe the function of

legitimation as "to make objectively available and subjectively plausible the . . .

objectivations that have been institutionalized." In the Disney films studied here

the explanation or justification of the objectivations, are that women (girls) who

are young and attractive and possess certain character traits will find a man,

couple and live "happily ever after. "

1 30

Legitimation requires someone to administrate the process. - From 1937

when Walt Disney produced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (the first_ full­

length animated feature film) until 1967 when The Jungle Book (the last film in

which Walt Disney had creative input) was released, Walt Disney himself was the

administrator of the legitimation p_rocess. The "nine old men" Walt Disney picked

as his creative team served as the animators or legitimators of the "knowledge" in

the films.

Even though women have greatly expanded their roles over the past forty

years, it does not mean they are treated the same way as men. Women have

moved into positions and roles traditionally held by men yet they are still

subjected to differential and sexist treatment. It could be argued that The Walt

Disney Company continues to reproduce these gender roles and stereotypes

because they reflect what is valued in society. A better explanation is that Walt

Disney's influence is still present in the compan today.

Over the years the legitimators and the administrators of this process at

The Walt Disney Company have changed but the changes n oted in the films are

minimal. This is most likely related to the fact that Walt Disney picked his

successor. Walt Disney's brother Roy Disney took control of the' company when

Walt Disney died. Roy Disney saw to it his son Roy Disney J r . was appointed to

the board of directors, which was also comprised of the "nine old men" hand

picked by Walt Disney. The board of directors P1Cked Mi�hael Eisner (who

currently serves as the administrator of the legitimation process) to oversee the


company in 1984. At the same time, Roy Disney Jr. who had earlier left the

company, returned to oversee the animation department.

These men were able to turn the company around financially which

partially resulted from the sale of the full-length animated feature films on home

video. This indicates there is a large market in this country for entertainment

portraying traditional patriarchal family values. The small differences noted in the

more recent films (in-home labor and independent females) serves as an

indicator that the legitimators at the Walt Disney Company are very slow in

reconstructing roles for their female characters.


The findings in this study parallel those found in other forms of media and

those found by other researchers studying Disney films. The ratio of male to

female characters and narrators is still heavily weighted toward males. While

efforts may be under way to rectify the gap between male and female characters

these efforts are slow. Until more female characters are provided as role models

for girls, men will appear to be more valued than women.

The physical appearance and the portrayal of female characters as young ,

attractive and good have not changed since Disney started producing full-length

animated feature films in 1937. Older women are still portrayed as unattractive

although some are kind and gentle while others are dark a�d evil. The physical

appearance of the male hero is consistent throughout the films studied. The
1 32

heroes are portrayed as young, attractive and strong. Once again the message

presented is that attractive people have positive traits and that unattractive

people don't. In other words, if people want to be happy, they must be attractive.

While most other research cited presents the male and female characters as

young and attractive or old and unattractive, the present research suggests that

male and female characters actually fit into an expanded categorization. This is

evident from the five categories of female characters and six categories of male

characters that emerged in this study.

The young female heroine characters in this study fall along many of the

traditional stereotyped lines but changes are evident. Many of these characters

are portrayed as passive, dependent, emotional and romantic. The heroines in

the more recent films do defy traditional stereotypes in that they are portrayed as

more independent. These female heroines are portrayed as standing up for

themselves to male characters. The problem is that these females are still

subjected to the stereotyped belief that females need someone to watch over

them, take care of them, and provide for them. Disney would d o better to

eliminate the portrayal of these female characters as passive o r dependent and

present them as strong and independent. This would provide expanded roles of

female characters to the viewers of these films.

T he male hero characters are still portrayed as strong, independent and

aggressive. One change noticed in the portrayal of the hero is that in the more

recent films they are portrayed as dependent in· that they need to be rescued. If
1 33

children identify with and want to be like characters they see portrayed on

television and in movies then the aggressive behaviors of the "good" male heroes

should be a concern. One must question if this is the behavior parents want to

see their children emulate.

For the most part, the female characters in the Disney films in this study

have no family, societal or economic power. This lack of power subjects women

to dependency on others. Female characters are over-represented in the

number and types of in-home labor portrayed in these films. The opposite is. true

for out-of-home employment. Males far outnumber females in the portrayal of

employment. The portrayal of women performing home-related chores has

decreased in the recent films. But, as the female -role in the home decreased the

occupational roles and status in society or the family have not increased. In fact,

options for out-of-home occupations remain almost nonexistent for female

characters. The fact that the stories portrayed in these films are more about

romance and adventure explains some of this.

As long as the number of male characters continues to outnumber female

characters there will remain fewer options in the presentation of female

characters. ft can be assumed that when there are more female characters they

wil l be portrayed in a wider variety of roles. The lack of female characters

portrayed in occupations sends a message that women have no place in the

world of work. The world of work presented in the Disney �lms is a man's world.

This lack of power keeps women in their place in the patriarchal societies
1 34

presented in the films studied whether that place is in the home or restriction

from the world of employment and economic independence.

The male characters are attracted to the female characters whose

physical appearance represents the cultural ideal of young, thin, and beautiful.

The female characters are aware of how to use their appearance to their

advantage. That advantage is the ability to use their looks to flirt and attract

men. Heterosexual couplings are presented as the major or main option for

women in the "wonderful world of Disney."

Romance and heterosexual couplings are the major themes in almost all

the Disney films studied. The female characters initiate these romances when

they present themselves as available and interested. This is evident from the

flirting. The female characters express interest in older handsome men. Getting

to know a person before marriage is not important as love in these films is based

on physical appearance. This is true for male and female characters. The idea

that marriage results in living happily ever after is a major distortion yet that is the

romance of fairy tales.

One purpose of theory in sociological research is to explain what happens

and to provide an explanation for why it happens. The social construction of

reality is only one theory that could have been utilized to explain the findings in

this study. Alternative theoretical perspectives that could have been utilized in

this study include a structural-functionalist approach and a feminist conflict


A structural-functionalist approach would argue that traditional masculine

and feminine gender roles and traits are functional for society in general, and

functional for males and females specifically. It could be argued from the

findings in the present study that it is functional for the female characters to

possess traditional stereotyped traits in order to attract a mate. The female

characters in the films studied did not hold positions of employment outside the

home therefore they need someone (a husband) to provide for them. Because

the female characters need a husband these traditional gender roles a�d traits

become functional for them to that end. This is then functional for the male

characters because many of the lead male characters were royalty and therefore

they need a wife for the production of heirs.

A feminist conflict perspective would explain the portrayal of traditional

and stereotyped gender roles as a way for one group to dominate and control

another group. By perpetuating gender inequality, males as a group are able to

dominate females as a group. The lack of opportunities for the female characters

in patriarchal societies is one method males use to maintain and exercise their

dominance and exploitation of women.

Future research could test the structural-functionalist and conflict-feminist

perspectives with the findings in the present study. While the messages in the

films would remain the same, alternative explanations and concl.usions may

1 36


A number of limitations became apparent during the research process.

The limitations were not apparent in the beginning and resulted in a narrowing of

the scope of the research. Due to the spiraling process of the research method

employed, these limitations resulted in having to go backward, making decisions

as the limitations arose. Some of the limitations resulted in boundaries having to

be established for some of the categories in the coding frame. The following are

limitations in the research process employed here.

1. By the time this project reached completion the sample only constituted a

little over one third of the Disney films that would fit the population

described. The findings in this study cannot necessarily be generalized to

the other Disney films in the population. Replication with another sample

would be useful to this end.

2. It was not possible to code the characters as major and minor based on

the number of lines they spoke in the film. This was tried for two films and

it turned out that there were numerous characters with approximately the

same number of lines.

3. While the animals and objects could be coded as male or female, it was

not possible to describe their physical appearance in the same terms used

to describe the human characters. It was not possible to determine the

age of these characters or their physical build in the same manner as the

human characters.
1 37

4. It became almost impossible to code every character that made an

appearance on the screen. This became a problem while trying to count

the number of males and females that appeared in groups because they

appeared on the screen briefly. This was the case when large groups of

male characters were shown on ships as sailors or pirates, and when men

and women were shown as large groups in a town or Indian tribes were

depicted. This was also true for herds, flocks and other groups of animals.

Therefore these characters were not included in the ratio of male and

female characters.

5. It was not possible to determine the character traits of all characters with

speaking lines in the story. Some of these characters were shown ve·ry

briefly and never seen again. Others were never shown in their entirety.

The lower half of the body or the legs of some characters that spoke were

all that were shown.

6. Coding character traits is very subjective. As the list of coded traits

expanded beyond manageability, a narrow list of traits was developed. It

was also unmanageable to code these traits for almost 300 characters

therefore the list of characters coded for character traits was reduced to

three categories of characters; the male heroes, the female heroines, and

the villains. This limitation may be offset somewhat by p(evious research.

Some of the character traits on the expanded list were addressed in

research on prosocial and antisocial behaviors portrayed by characters in


Disney films. That study included a sample o f eleven Disney films.

(H oerner 1996). H oerners' entire sample of eleven Disney films was

included in this study. This limitation was also offset with assessment of

inter-coder reliability.

7. The sex, background and history of the researcher may have resulted in

unintentional and undetected biases. These biases m ay be due to age,

socioeconomic background, education level, and the fact that this

researcher is female.

Future Research

Numerous themes emerged during this research that lend themselves to

possible research on Disney films in the future. These themes may or may not

be related to gender issues. One area for possible research is the portrayal of

smoking and drinking in the Disney films. The Disney films a re marketed as

wholesome family entertainment yet this seems to be contradicted by the

portrayals of smoking and drinking in the films studied.

Some examples of this were noted during the coding process although it

was not an issue addressed in this research. Characters were noted smoking a

pipe, cigar or cigarette in Pinocchio (1940), Peter Pan ( 1953) , Cinderella ( 1950) ,

Lady and the Tramp ( 1955), The Aristocats ( 1970), and The Little Mermaid

( 1989). Numerous instances of drinking were also noted in s ome of these films.

Drinking was portrayed in Pinocchio ( 1940), Peter Pan ( 1953) , 101 Dalmatians
1 39

( 196 1) , The Aristocats ( 1970), Beauty and the Beast ( 199 1) , and Pocahontas

( 1995).

What is disturbing about these portrayals is that these films are made for,

and marketed to, children. Adult characters are not the only characters engaging

in these behaviors as Pinocchio and Lampwick smoke and drink in Pinocchio

( 1940) and Peter Pan and John Darling smoke in Peter Pan ( 1953). While much

of this behavior is portrayed in the earlier films, three of the recent films portray

smoking: The Little Mermaid ( 1989) , Beauty and the Beast ( 1991) and

Pocahontas ( 1995).

It is somewhat surprising these behaviors are still presented in these films

considering the stance that has been taken against smoking in the United Sta tes.

Various states are currently involved in lawsuits against the tobacco companies

and the laws against underage smoking are being more strictly enforced. Anti­

smoking education programs are also being presented in the schools. These

portrayals seem rather inconsistent considering the traditional gender roles

presented in these films for the most part have not changed. If parents believe

the Disney films present good values maybe they need to take a closer look at

what their children are presented in these films.

Another area for future research is good versus evil. All of the films in this

study contain a villain who does or tries to do something to the tJero or heroine.

In some of these stories the villain is killed in the end, as is the case with Gaston,

Scar ' Ursula and the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( 1937).

Closely related to good versus evil is violence. The violence portrayed i n the

films in this study span the continuum of violent behavior. In numerous i nstances

there are portrayals of slapping, pushing or shoving, hitting with or without

objects, stabbing, shooting, attempted rape, and death.

It appears that the violence in these films is acceptable when it i s "the

good guys" or heroes who are engaging in these acts. The vil lains who engage

in violence many times end up dead and the hero suffers no consequences.

Apparently violence is acceptable for certain reasons and good people who are

violent do not suffer consequences. In the end bad or evil people get what they

deserve. With the current concerns of the violence children see in television

programs, movies, and video games, it seems that parents should also be

concerned with the violence in the supposed sanitized Disney films. An actual

determination of the level and amount of violence portrayed i n Disney films may

prove interesting at the very least.

Cultural diversity including race and socioeconomic status provide yet

other topics for future research. Class issues become apparent when royalty

become involved with those beneath their position. This is true i n Snow White

and the Seven Dwarfs (1 937), Cinderella (1 950), Lady and the Tramp ( 1 955),

The Aristocats (1 970), The Little Mermaid (1 989), and Aladdin (1 992). Issues of

race became apparent in Pocahontas (1 995) and Peter Pan ( 1 9�3). In both films

the race issues are with the Native Americans although this i sn't necessarily the

term used to describe them.


It appears there is a moral to the story or a lesson to be learned in many

of the films in this study. The moral of the story becomes apparent while

watching the story but it is also indicated in the description of the story on the

videotape box. Some of these les sons include friendship, "true beauty comes

from within" (Beauty and the Beast 1991), learning "to be himself' (Aladdin 1992),

and "how dreams can come true" ( Cinderella 1950) or "the power of believing in

your dreams" (Pinocchio 1940).

Future research should be concerned with the passing of patri arphal views

of gender roles to children. The research should focus on how children perceive

and interpret the stories and characters in these films. During socialization

children learn through language and by visual representations what roles and

behaviors are appropriate for their sex. They inherit an already constructed

world of gender roles. Just as in reality these roles become typifications of how

to present one's self as male or female and the appropriate roles that accompany

those presentations.

Many of the films in this study contained a moral to the story or a lesson to

be learned. This indicates the executives (legitimators) at The Walt Disney

Company must realize the impact media have on what children learn and how or

where they learn it. The present research along with the research of others

present some of the messages transmitted in the stories produc.ed by The Walt

Disney Company. Thus, the purpose of future research should address what, if

any, socializing effect these films have on children and their construction of
1 42

gender roles. The task will be to determine the subjective interpretations children

construct based on the "objective" reality they observe in these Disney films.

The present research should serve to debunk the beliefs of those who

think Disney presents only good family entertainment in their "G" rated films for

children. More importantly, the present research has demonstrated how the

abstract processes of objectification and legitimation occur in the production of

gender typifications in some of the Disney films.

1 43

1 44

Appendix A Coding Frame

5 AREAS OF ATTRIBUTES Character Character Character Character

Male or Female
Body size, shape, build, figure
Apparent age

Type of physical activity the
character engages in

Activities related to the upkeep
of the home and/or yard

Occupation or job title


Authority, status or holding an
important position

Passive, Aggressive
Dependent, I ndependent
Emotional or Unemotional
Romantic or Unromantic
1 45


Film & Characters Males Females

Snow White Prince Snow White

Huntsman Queen
Mirror Voice
7 Dwarfs

Pinocchio Pinocchio Blu e Fairy

Geppetto Cleo
Jiminy Cricket
· Honest John
Carnival Man

Bambi Bambi Bambi's Mother

Thumper Mother Rabbit
Owl Faline
Flower Faline's Mother
Stag Female Rabbit
2 nd Stag Female Skunk
Mother Racoon
Mrs. Q uail

Cinderella Prince Cinderella

King Stepmother
Grand Duke Anistasia
G us Drucella
Jaq Fairy Godmother
King's Messenger 3 Female Mice
2 Male Mice
1 46

Appendix B. (continued)

Film & Characters Males Females

Peter Pan George Mary

John Wendy
Michael Tinkerbell
Peter Pan Tiger Lily
Captain Hook Indian W oman
Smee 6 Mermaids
6 Lost Boys

Lady and the Tramp Jim Darling

Jock Lady
Trusty Aunt Sarah
Tramp Peg
Tony 6 Women at shower
Man at Chicken Coop
Man on Sidewalk
5 Men at House
1 47

Appendix B. (continued)

Film & Characters Males Females

101 Dalmations Pongo Perdita

Roger Anita
Jasper Cruella
Horace Nanny
Van Driver TV woman
Mechanic Q ueenie
Minister Duchess
Terrier Lucy
Captain 2 Cows
· Towser
4 TV characters

Jungle Book Mowgli Winifred

Shere Khan Mother Wolf
Bagheera Girl from village
King Louie
Colonel Harty
Baby Elephant
Wolf Leader
Father Wolf
3 Male Elephants
3 Male Monkeys
4 Vultures

Appendix B. (continued)

Film & Characters Males Females

Aristocats George Hautecourt Madame

Edgar Duchess
Toulouse Marie
Berlioz Amelia
O'Malley Abigail
Roquefort Frau Frou
Uncle Waldo
. 1 st Truck Driver
2nd Truck Driver
Scat Cat
Milk Truck Driver
4 Singing Cats

The Fox and the Hound Slade Mrs. Tweed

Tod Vixey
Copper Big M ama

The Little Mermaid King Triton Ariel

Prince Eric Ursual
Grimsby Carlotta
2 H enchfish
1 49

Appendix B. (continued)

Film & Characters Males Females

Beauty and the Beast Gaston Belle

Lefou Mrs. Potts
Maurice Wardrobe
Beast/Prince Dust Brush .
Bookstore Man
Asylum Head
. Chip

Aladdin Aladdin Jasmine

Tiger God
Prince Achmed
Old Man
3 Guards

Lion King Scar Nala

Mufasa Sarabi
Zazu Nata's Mom
Simba Shenzi
1 50

Appendix B. (continued)

Film & Characters Males Females

Pocahontas John Smith Pocahontas

Powhatan Nakoma
Kocoum Grandmother
Governor Ratcliff
. Advisor to Chief

Toy Story Woody Molly

Buzz Andy's Mom
Andy Hannah
Sid Sid's Mom
Mr. Potato Head Bo Peep
Army Men (many) .
Mr. Spell
Pizza Man
TV Voice

Appendix C I nter-Rater Coding F rame :

Character Traits
I .... l
""ffi (J
> I C:
Q) �
"O C: :;:; ·u; "O
C :.:: C:
> 0 C:
CJ) 0
C: Q)
:.:: � a. E
a. 0 E Q)
cu Q) E 0
O> C:
Cl 0:: <( C ::::)
S now White
Blue Fairy (Pinocchio)
Fali ne (Bambi )
Wendy (Peter Pan)

Lady (Lady & Tramp) �.

Perdi�a ( 1 01 Dal matians)

Girl (Jungle Book)
Duchess (Aristocats)
Vixey (Fox & Hound) I
Ariel (Little Mermaid) I
Belle (Beauty & Beast)
Jasmine (Aladdin) I
Nala (Lion King)
BoPeep (Toy Story) :

Prince (Snow White) I

Bambi !
Prince (Ci nderel la)_
Peter Pan
Mowgli !

Tody (Fox & Hound)
E ric (Little Mermaid)

Aladdin I

Simba (Lion King)


John Smith ( Pocahontas)

Woody (Toy Story) I
1 52

Appen d ix C (continued ) Inter-Rater C od ing Frame:

C haracter Traits

Q) 1ij (.)
"C C:
0 C: "fg C:
� E
·enen tE

E � �
E 0
C> Q)
Q) 0 "C C: C:
Cl � <( C:
� �
Queen (Snow White)
2nd Stag (Bambi)
Stepmother (Cinderella)
Captai n Hook
Aunt Sarah (Lady/Tramp)
Cruella Deville
Shere Khan (Jungle Book)
Edgar (Aristocats)
Slade ( Fox & Hound)
Ursula (Little Mermaid)
Gaston (Beauty & Beast)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Scar ( Lion King)
Governor Ratcliff ( Pocah)
Sid (Toy Story)
1 53

Append ix D Inter-Rater Coding F rame :

Physical Traits




Q) 1a en
� "8
:c co C
Q,) Q,) '-

C: � 0 �
8. � 'cij
Q) 0
> � ·5 :r:
t co
> m
8. "3
C) C)
C) 0
co t!! Cl) C> C:
'- Q)
> ....
0 �
0 "'O
::, ·o
co cu

>- � <( ll. Cl) 5 u.. w 0
_J u. m �
Snow White
Blue Fai ry (Pinocchio)
Faline ( Bambi)
Cinderel la
Wendy (Peter Pan)
Lady (Lady & Tramp)
Perdita ( 1 01 Dalmatians)
Girl (Jungle Book)
Duchess (Aristocats)
Vixey ( Fox & Hound)
Ariel ( Little Mermaid)
Belle ( Beauty & Beast)
Jasmine (Aladdin)
Nala ( Lion King)
BoPeep (Toy Story)

Prince ( Snow White)

Prince (Cinderella)
Peter Pan
Tody ( Fox & Hound)
Eric ( Little Mermaid)
1 54

Appendix D (continued) Inter-Rater Coding Frame:

Physical Traits


� en "3
� 0
co ::::,

Q) co
C Q)
:c co C "C
Q) .... .c
t::Q) C Q)
� Q)
0 "ffi
:e en8. �
Q) 0

I co

8. � m
O> C>
O> C "3

C co
.... e
co "C
·o �
:::, Q) :::,
0 "C
co X
a.. en
� � 0 u.. w 0
.....J co �
Simba (Lion King)
John Smith (Pocahontas)
Woody (Toy Story)

Queen (Snow White)

2nd Stag ( Bambi)
Stepmother (Cinderella)
Captai n Hook
Aunt Sarah ( Lady/Tramp)
Cruella Deville
Shere Khan (Jungle Book)
Edgar (Aristocats)
Slade (Fox & Hound)
Ursula (Little Mermaid) I

Gaston ( Beauty & Beast)

Jafar (Aladdin) I
Scar (Lion King) !
Governor Ratcliff ( Pocah) I
Sid (Toy Story) i
1 55


Abel. Sam. 1995. "The Rabbit in Drag: Camp and Gender Construction in the
American Animated Cartoon." Journal of Popular Culture. 29: 183-202.

"America's Sorcerer" 1998 . The Economist. 346:7 1-73.

Bart, Peter 1999. "Waiting for Walt." Variety. 377:2.

Berg, Bruce L. 1998 . Qualitative Re search Methods for the Social Sciences.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon

Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. The Social Construction of

Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. N ew York: Doubleday.

Beuf, Ann. 1974. "Doctor, Lawyer, Household Drudge." Journal of

Communication 24: 142-145.

Busby, Linda Jean. 1974. "Defining the Sex-Role Standard in Network Children's
Programs." Journalism Quarterly 51 :690-696.

Cantor, Muriel G . 1974. Producing Television for Children. Chapter 6 . The TV

Establishment: Programming for Power and Profit. Edited by Gaye
Tuchman. Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Capodag li, Bill and Lynn Jackson. 1999. The Disney Way: Harne s sing the
Management Secrets of Disney in your Company. N ew York: McGraw­

Carvell, Tim. 1997. "The fox vs the mouse." Fortune 136: 1 19-123.

Connel ly Loeb, Jane. 1990. "Rhetorical and Ideological Conservatism in

Thirtysomething ." Critical Studie s in Mas s Communication. 7 :249-260.

Crabb, Peter B. and Dawn Bielawski. 1994. "The Social Representation of

Material Culture and Gender in Children's Books. " Sex F;?ole s 30:69-79.

Durkin, Kevin. 1995. Developmental Social Psychology: From Infancy to Old

Age. " Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Eliot, Mark. 1993. Walt Disney: An American Original. New York: Hyperion.
1 56

Frueh, Terry and Paul E. McGhee. 1975. "Traditional Sex Role Development
And Amount of Time Spent Watching Television." Developmental
Psychology. 1 1: 109.

Garfinkel, H. 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice ·


Giroux, Henry A. 1997 "Are Disney Movies Good for Your Kids?" Pp.53-67 in
Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood, edited by Shirley
R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe. Boulder, CO:Westview Press.

Glaser, Barney G. , and Anselm L. Strauss. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded

Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York: Aldine.

Goffman, E. 1976. Gender Display. Studies in the Anthropology of Visµal

Communication 3:69-77.

Goldman, Michael. 1997. "Reanimating Disney." Variety. 367:50.

Gomery, Douglas. 1994. "Disney's Business History: A Reinterpretation". Pp. 7 1-

86 in Disney Discourse, edited by Eric Smoodin. New York: Routledge.

Hearne, Betsy. 1997. "Disney Revisited or Jiminy Cricket, It's Musty Down Here." ·
The Horn Book Magazine. 73: 137-146.

Henke, Jill Birnie, Diane Zimmerman Umble, and Nancy J . Smith. 1996.
"Construction of the Female Self: Feminist Readings of the Disney
Heroine. " Women's Studies in Communication. 19: 229-249.

Hewitt, John P. 1994. Self and Society: A Symbolic lnteractionist Social

Psychology, 6 ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Hillman, Judith Stevinson. 1976. "Occupational Roles in Children's Literature."

The Elementary School Journal 77: 1, 1-4.

Hoerner, Keisha L. 1996. "Gender Roles in Disney Films: Analyzing Behaviors

From Snow White to Simba." Women's Studies in Commwycation.
19:213-228 .

Howard, Judith A. and Jocelyn Hollander. 1997. Gendered Situations, Gendered

Selves. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
1 57

Hutchison, Elizabeth D. and Leanne Wood Charesworth. 1998. "Human

Behavior" Pp. 41-92 in The Social Environment in The Role of Gender in
Practice Knowledge. edited by Josefina Figueira-McDonough, F . Ellen
Netting and Ann Nichols-Casebolt. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Jackson, Kathy Merlock. 1996. "Walt Disney: Its Persuasive Products and
Cultural Contexts." Journal of Popular Film and Television. 24:50-52 .

Kanagy, Conrad L. and Donald 8. Kraybill. 1999. The Riddles of Human Society.
Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

Kornblum, William and Joseph Julian. 1998. Chapter 10: Facts about Sex Roles
and Inequality. Pp. 293-317 in Social Problem s 9 ed. Upper Saddle
River, NJ : Prentice Hall.

Kortenhaus, Carole M. and Jack Demarest. 1993. "Gender Role Stereotyping in

Children's Liter�ture: An Update." Sex Roles 28:219-232 .

Krippendorff, Klaus. 1980. Content Analysis. An Introduction to Its Methodology.

Beverly Hills: Sage.

Landis, D. 1993. "Disney Classics go into Hibernation. " USA Today, February 9
p. 50.

Levinson, Richard M. 1975. "From Olive Oyl to Sweet Polly Purebread: Sex Role
Stereotypes and Televised Cartoons." Journal of Popular Culture 9:561-

Lieberman, Marcia K. 1989. "Some Day My Prince Will Come: F emale

Acculturation Through the Fairy Tale." Pp.185-200 in Don 't Bet on the
Prince edited by Jack Zipes. New York: Routledge.

Lindsey, Linda L. 1997. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. 3ra ed. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lofland, John, and Lyn H. Lofland. 1995. Analyzing Social Settings. A Guide to
Qualitative Ob servation and Analysis. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Loos, Ted. 2000. " Breaking Through Animation's Boy Barrier." · The New York
Times, September 17, p.25.
1 58

Lorber, Judith. 1988. "Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender." Pp.
213...220 in Reading Between the Lines: Toward and Understanding of
Current Social Problems, edited by Amanda Konrad and Martha Schmidt.
Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Lorber, Judith. 1994. The Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven: Yale University

Lorber, Judith and Susan A. Farrell. 1991. The Social Construction of Gender.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Lott, Bernice. 1997. "The Personal and Social Correlates of a Gender Difference
Ideology." Journal of Social Issues. 53:279-294.

Lovdal, Lynn T. 1989. "Sex Role Messages in Television Commercials: An

Update." Sex Roles 21 :715-724.

Luckett, Moya. 1994. "Fantasia: Cultural Constructions of Disney's

'Masterpiece"'. Pp. 214-236 in Disney Discourse, edited by Eric Smoodin.
New York: Routledge.

Mackey, W. D. and D. J . Hess. 1982. "Attention Structure and Stereotypy of

Gender on Television: An Empirical Analysis." Genetic Psychology
Monographs 106:199-215.

Maccoby, Eleanor E. and William Cody Wilson. 1957. "Identification and

Observational Learning from Films." Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology 55:76-86.

Maney, Kevin. 1995. Megamedia Shakeout: The Inside Story of the Leaders and
the Losers in the Exploding Communications Industry. New York: John
Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Mayes, Sandra L. and K. B. Valentine. 1979. "Sex Role Stereotyping in Saturday

Morning Cartoon Shows." Journal of Broadcasting 23:41-50.

McArthur, Leslie Zebrowitz and Susan V. Eisen. 1976. "Television and Sex-Role
Stereotyping." Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 6 : � 29-351.

Media Report to Women. 1997. "Media Reinforce Some Stereotypes, Break

Others. " 25:1-4.
1 59

Miles, Matthew B. and A. Michael Huberman. 1 994. Qualitative Data Analysis:

An Expanded Sourcebook. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Miller, Mark M. and Byron Reeves. 1 976. "Dramatic TV Content and Children's
Sex-Role Stereotypes." Journal of Broadcasting 20: 35-50.

Mooney, Linda A. and Sarah Brabant. 1 990. "The Portrayal of Boys and Girls in
Six Nationally Syndicated Comic Strips." Sociology and Social Research
74: 1 1 8-126.

Morgan, Michael. 1 982. "Television and Adolescents' Sex Role Stereotypes: A

Longitudinal Study." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43:947-

Mosley, L. 1 990. Disney's World. Maryland: Scarborough House.

O'Brien, Jodi. 1 999. Social Prisms: Reflections on Everyday Myths and

Paradoxes. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

O'Brien, Pamela Colby. 1 996. "The Happiest Films on Earth: A Textual and
Contextual Analysis of Walt Disney's Cinderella and The Little Mermaid."
Women's Studies in Communication. 1 9: 1 55-1 83.

O'Bryant, Shirley and Charles R. Corder-Bolz. 1 978. ''The Effects of Television

on Children's Stereotyping of Women's Work Roles." Journal of
Vocational Behavior 1 2:233-244.

Ostman, Ronald E. 1 996. "Disney and its Conservative Critics: Images versus
Realities." Journal of Popular Film and Television. 24:82-89.

Peirce, Kate. 1 989. "Sex-Role Stereotyping of Children on Television: A Content

Analysis of the Roles and Attributes of Child Characters." Sociological
Spectrum 9:321 -328.

Peterson, Sharyl Bender and Mary Alyce Lach. 1 990 " Gender Stereotypes in
Children's Books: Their Prevalence and Influence on Cognitive and
Affective Development." Gender and Education 2: 1 85-1 97.

Reeves, Byron and Mark M. Miller. 1 978. "A Multidimensional measure of

Children's Identification With Television Characters." Journal of
Broadcasting 22:71 -86.
1 60

Remafedi, Gary. 1990 "Study Group Report on the Impact of Television

Portrayals of Gender Roles on Youth." Journal of Adolescent Health Care

Rigby, Rhymer. 1997. "Doctor Walt and Mr. Disney." Management Today.
October: 136.

Ritzer, George. 1992. Sociological Theory. 3d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Romer, Nancy. 1981. The Sex-Role Cycle: Socialization from Infancy to Old
Age. Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist Press.

Rowe, Karen E. 1989. "Feminism and Fairy Tales." Pp.209-226 in Don't Bet on
· the Prince edited by Jack Zipes, New York: Routledge.

Sallach, David. 1974. "Class Domination and Ideological Hegemony." Pp. 161-
173 in The TV �stablishment: Programming for Power and Profit edited by
Gaye Tuchman. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Schickel, Richard. 1968. The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and
Commerce of Walt Disney. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Signorielli, Nancy. 1989. "Television and Conceptions About Sex Roles:

Maintaining Conventionality and the Status Quo." Sex Roles 21 :341-360.

Signorielli, Nancy. 1997. "Reflections of Girls in the Media: A Content Analysis

Across Six Media. " An executive Summary for Children Now a nd the
Kaiser Family Foundation. Menlo Park, CA: Publisher not listed.

Signorielli, Nancy and Margaret Lears. 1992. "Children, Television, and

Conceptions About Chores: Attitudes and Behaviors . " Sex Roles 27:157-

Steinberg, Shirley R. and Joe L. Kincheloe. (editors) 1997. "No More Secrets­
Kinderculture, Information Saturation, and the Postmodern Childhood."
Pp. 1-30 in Kinderculture: The Corporate Constructio n of Childhood.
Boulder, CO: Westview Prress.

Stone, Kay. 1975. "Things Walt Disney Never Told Us." Pp.42.:so in Women and
Folklore edited by Claire R. Farrer. Austin, TX: U niversity of Texas Press.

Street, Douglas (ed). 1983. Childre n's Novels and the Movies. New York:
Frederick U ngar Publishin g Co.

Streicher, Helen White. 1974. "The Girls in the Cartoons." Journal of

Communication 24: 125-129.

Thomas, William I. And Dorothy S. Thomas. 1928. The Child in America:

Behavior Problems and Programs. New York: Knott.

Thompson, Teresa L. and Eugenia Zerbinos. 1995 "Gender Roles in Animated

Cartoons: Has the Picture Changed in 20 Years?" Sex Roles 32:651-673.

Thorne, Barrie. 1994. Gender Play. New Brunswick, NJ: R utgers University

Trite·s, R. 1991. "Disney's sub/version of Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid.'"

Journal of Popular Film and Television. 18:145: 152.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1999. Estimates of Housing Units, H ouseholds by

Age of Householder, and Persons per Household: July, 1998. Internet
Release Date December 8, 1999. Washington DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office.

Walley, Wayne. 1996. "The Man Who Created Disney's Girls." Advertising Age.
February 20: 32.

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1937. Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1940.
Pinocchio. (Videotape]. Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1942. Bambi.
[Videotape]. Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1950.
Cinderella. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1953.
Peter Pan. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 955.
Lady and the Tramp. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).
1 62

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers) . 1 96 1 .

101. Dalmatian s. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 967. The
Jungle Book. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 970. The
The Aristocats. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor). ·

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 98 1 . The
Fox and the Hound. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 989. The
Little Mermaid. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers) . 1 99 1 . Beauty
and the Beast. . [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers) . 1 992.
Aladdin. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers) . 1 994. The
Lion King. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company. 1995 Annual Report. ( 1 995a). The Walt Disney

Walt Disney Company 1 995 Fact Book.[Online] ( 1 995b). Available: http://www.

Disney .com. [1 998, April 3].

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 995.
Pocahontas. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video ( Distributor).

Walt Disney Company and Silver Screen Partners IV. (Producers). 1 995. Toy
Story. [Videotape], Buena Vista Home Video (Distributor).

Walt Disney Company 1 996 Annual Report. [Online]. ( 1 996a). Available:

http ://www. [1 998, April 3].

Walt Disney Company 1 996 Fact Book. [Online]. ( 1 996b). Available:

http ://www. (1 998, April 3].
1 63

Walt Disney Company 1998 Fact Book. [Online] . Available:

http://www. Disney. com [1999, February 3] .

Watts, Steven. 1997. The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way
of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

West, Candace, and Don. H. Zimmerman. "Doing Gender" Pp. 13-37 in The
Social Construction of Gender edited by J udith Lorber and Susan A.
Farrell. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Williams, Allen J . , Jo Etta A. Vernon, Martha C. Williams and Karen Laecha.

1987. "Sex Role Socialization in Picture Books: An Update." Social
Science Quarterly 68:148-156.

Zebrowitz McArthur, Leslie and Beth Gabrielle Resko. 1975. "The Portrayal of
Men and Women in American Television Commercials." The Journal of
Social Psychology 97:209-220.